An NMU women’s advocacy group is working this week to promote awareness of sexual assault and self-acceptance.
Women 4 Women, a group of women working together to promote education, leadership and service throughout NMU, will be hosting a Self-Acceptance Week. As part of this event, they will be holding the annual presentation of “Hear Us Roar” Thursday, March 11, at 7 p.m. in 103 Jamrich. This event is focused on letting people share their personal encounters with sexual assault.
“The programs are designed to encourage students to embrace who they are as individuals and to promote communal acceptance on this campus,” said Megan Persons, a junior history secondary education major and member of Women 4 Women.
Stories will be heard from students, faculty and community members.
“[Hear Us Roar] is usually pretty serious but it’s meant to enlighten and move people. This event is meant to help empower others and give hope to those who feel like they have none,” said Kate Sartori, the resident director of Payne Hall and founder of Women 4 Women. “[It] allows others to share their stories or seek guidance from others once they’ve heard the positive outcome.”
The event originally started as readings from the book “Voices of Courage,” which was a book composed of 12 stories by people who had been sexually assaulted from around the nation. One of the stories included in the book was that of survivor Caroline Blair, who was raped her freshman year at NMU.
“I hadn’t really told anyone on campus that I was sexually assaulted on campus as a freshman,” said Blair, who stayed at NMU after graduation in 2005 to become the resident director of Gant Hall.
She has also helped run the production of “Hear Us Roar.”
“I was contacted by [someone who works in NMU’s Health Promotions Office (HPO)]. He thought it would be very beneficial to students on campus to put together a production that was empowering and provided hope to those who had experienced sexual assault.”
According to Blair, the production was a success for three years straight and other colleges have even used Northern’s performance as a model to host their own productions. She also said two members of NMU’s Student Leader Fellowship Program gave new life to “Voices of Courage” when they came up with the idea to collect stories from members of the community.
“Every year, I continue to be moved by the stories of the survivors,” Persons said. “Their strength and courage is inspiring beyond anything I can express in a few short words.”
Another aspect of Women 4 Women’s self-awareness week was guest speaker Renee Douglas who spoke this past Tuesday. She discussed the difficulties people face when it comes to accepting themselves, whether it be their self images, their sexual orientation or their own strengths and weaknesses. Douglas worked as a councilor at Ferris State University and served as a therapist for the Young Women Muslim Association, through which she worked with survivors of sexual assault.
People are encouraged to submit stories for next year’s event. Everyone is welcome to attend the presentation, and it is free of charge. For anyone who has been sexually assaulted and is looking for guidance or help, there are many places to go, including the HPO, Housing and Residence Life, and Public Safety.
Anyone interested in joining Women 4 Women, or anyone with questions, should contact Kate Sartori at [email protected]