Everyone can play a part in ending interpersonal violence. But knowing how to do so can take education—and practice.
Enter SCREAM TheaterTM, a peer education improvisational theater group associated with the Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. The students in SCREAM (which stands for Students Challenging Realities and Educating Against Myths) use interactive skits to educate audiences on issues of interpersonal violence, specifically on sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, stalking, sexual harassment, and bullying. Audience members learn how to challenge the characters on unacceptable behaviors and, in doing so, teach each other what behaviors and attitudes are appropriate.
SCREAM TheaterTM, which was established in 1991, is among numerous initiatives at Rutgers aimed at educating students and raising awareness around issues of interpersonal violence, including such events as Turn the Campus Purple, the Clothesline Project, and Denim Day.
In addition to modifying or enhancing these programs, Rutgers added a new staff position to its Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance Office. The position focuses on education, advocacy, and programming, with an emphasis on engaging men and healthy masculinity. “Sexual violence is not just a woman’s issue,” Felicia McGinty, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, said in an August 2015 press briefing.
Other initiatives include improved outreach to victims through sexual violence screening at all of its health centers. And to better support victims of sexual violence, all counseling center staff are trained in Cognitive Processing Therapy, an evidence-based counseling treatment for PTSD.
These programs are empowering the Rutgers community to take ownership of their campus climate—knowing how to intervene when they see threatening behavior and how to better support those who have experienced sexual violence.