SCREAM raises awareness for sexual assault

A shocking one in four women is the victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault during her college career, according to Brady Root, prevention education coordinator at Rutgers’ Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance.

Students watch SCREAM. (Courtney Wirths)

That means that of the estimated 3,600 female students at the College, about 900 have been, or will be, a victim.

“Chances are everyone in this room … will know someone who was either the victim or the perpetrator of sexual assault,” Root said.

On Tuesday, April 9, the Rutgers student theater group, SCREAM, or Students Challenging Realities and Educating Against Myths, presented an improvised but realistic skit on sexual assault, victim-blaming and bystander intervention. The event was brought to campus by Anti-Violence Initiatives, Women in Learning & Leadership, the Bonner Center and the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

“People tend to brush (sexual assault) off as something that happens in movies or TV shows,” said Tiffany Piatt, sophomore biology major and co-vice executive chair of WILL. “But this is way too common.”

The skit, performed by undergraduate Rutgers students, revolved around friends who planned to attend a party together. While they were pre-gaming, freshman Jessica Clark’s character, Liz, followed Cory, played by senior Chris Sharma, into his room. When Liz pulled away from Cory’s kiss, he respected her decision, agreeing to take her on a date first.

However, when senior Benny Del Castillo’s character, Jess, stayed behind with Ryan, played by senior Gabriel Arismendi, Jess thought that they would be flirting and end up kissing at most. Next thing she knew, Ryan was forcing himself on her, muffling her screams and shouting at her to “take it like the slut (she is).”

“What do you think you came up here for?” he said.

“Ryan, please don’t do this to me!” she screamed. “I just want to go back downstairs.”

The rest of the skit followed the reactions of the friends involved. Liz, Jess’ best friend, claimed that Jess was exaggerating and blamed her for “being a slut.” Jayden, played by sophomore Joie DeRitis, insisted on going to the police, despite Jess’ plea to be left alone.

Freshman Moya O’Leary’s character, Sam, preferred to stay out of the conflict, while Cory decided to confront his best friend about the rape. Ryan denied the accusations, and the two exploded into an argument.

The performance ended with a question and answer session with the actors while still in character, followed by the actors’ individual takes on lessons to be learned.

“Just the performance itself showed that we need to have more resources and better support networks for our victims … so they can resolve their internal issues,” said Amanda Parks, sociology junior and executive chair of WILL.

When explaining the event’s purpose, Root said, “We want to talk about how can we break those (barriers) down, and build stronger communities where we’re there for each other. We all have a role in ending sexual violence, in our communities, in our colleges, in our state, everywhere.”