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Arizona State University is attempting to fight the growing issue of campus sexual violence in a way that counters many other institutions’ reactions to the problem. Instead of only increasing security resources or safety technology, ASU is addressing the problem by proactively engaging and educating its students through CounterAct, a multidisciplinary, campus-wide effort to reduce sexual assault and center healthy sexuality using the arts.

The initiative is brought in partnership with ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

CounterAct’s goal is to create 880 artistic acts to counter the 880 acts of sexual violence that occur each day in the United States. Students can apply to host their own CounterActions through this initiative.

CounterAct founders Elizabeth Johnson and Nik Zaleski enlisted ASU students to develop and perform a show that explores the spectrum of campus sexual violence through the lens of college seniors looking back on their university experiences.

The name of the show is With Each Other, and it seems to already have an affect around campus.

Reslie Cortes, a communications graduate student, helped create the CounterAct student organization as a means to ensure that these arts-based initiatives continue at ASU even after April 2019, which is when the 880 acts are set to wrap up.

Cortes mentioned that one of the club’s first events was a poetry night where students made references to the larger sexual violence issues in our culture that stretched beyond just the ASU campus.

“Part of the beauty of arts-based practices and creative tools… is that once you’re there, you realize that the metaphors, writing, performance activities and embodied work are all connecting our lived experience to a bigger issue,” Cortes says.

That exposure alone makes it a much more thorough and engaging experience, compared to a typical (and topical) PowerPoint presentation that would likely lose the attention of many.

Students, staff and faculty are eligible for seed grants of up to $1,200 to help fund their projects for the program.

What are your thoughts on ASU’s initiative to engage students through artistic experiences in an attempt to decrease sexual violence?

Learn more about ASU’s CounterAct initiative

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