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‘Stanford, It’s On Us’ uses theater to educate community

This Friday evening, student organizers are organizing the first “Stanford, It’s On Us: We Will Not Standby” program on campus. Designed to educate students about how bystanders can effectively intervene in a suspected case of sexual assault, the program will utilize theater in order to train students to be “upstanders.”

“It’s On Us” began as an initiative from Tanvi Jayaraman ’16, who was inspired by a conversation with a friend last February and believed there needed to be increased dialogue among students regarding sexual assault on college campuses.

Jayaraman began working last spring after applying for and receiving funding from the Bingham Fund for Student Innovation, working in close collaboration with the Clayman Institute for Gender Research.

She found a platform for presenting the information to students through interACT, a theater troupe from California State University, Long Beach, she said, adding that she doesn’t think students respond well to typical lectures.

interACT will be performing a semi-scripted performance about bystander intervention during the “It’s On Us” event. The student group is well experienced in presenting information of this type.

Founded in 2000 by CalState communications professor Marc Rich, interACT has performed hundreds of times nationally and internationally about topics such as sexual assault, homophobia, bullying and racism and diversity.

“I wanted to choose [a group] that has a lot of experience,” Jayaraman said about interACT. “So when hard questions come up, they know the answers and how to navigate the situation.”

According to Kelly Janke, managing director, interACT does not simply perform and hope for audience participation. Instead, they ask members of the audience to join them on stage as “spec-actors,” a redefined role as a spectator and actor, to help them act out scenes at various parts of the performance.

Janke added that in doing so, the performance would encourage “audience members to stop being passive bystanders and get them to be active bystanders [upstanders] so they can make a change.”

The attendees of the event will also be encouraged to participate in the national “It’s On Us” online pledge to commit to ending sexual assault on college campuses. They will receive an interactive educational experience that will shed light on a sensitive topic and facilitate a much needed dialogue among students, Jayaraman said.

“This is not something we are removed from. It affects people in our community. It affects people down the street from us,” Jayaraman said. “You will not find a student here that doesn’t know someone who has been impacted by sexual assault. It’s important that we educate each other.”

Contact Meredith Kalinowski at mlk1029 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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