By Haley Verre
How can we change the way sexual assault is talked about if nobody wants to talk about it? Sarah Beaulieu recognized this and decided to do something about it.
As a former survivor herself, Beaulieu knew something had to be done about destigmatizing conversations about sexual violence.
As a result, she started The Uncomfortable Conversation video project. This aims to help both men and women navigate these difficult conversations by providing examples of scenarios involving survivors of sexual assault and abuse.
Beaulieu held a private roundtable discussion in which young professionals viewed videos about conversations surrounding the topic of sexual violence. The panelists then recorded their reactions to these videos and discussed them with each other.
The panelists that were willing to speak with The Voice said they enjoyed the videos, although some of them were uncomfortable and awkward. The male panelists responded best to the video involving guys talking about sexual assault at a gym the most, since this was a realistic scenario for them. Both men agreed that consent is absolutely necessary in a sexual relationship.
“[It’s] not the absence of ‘no’, it’s the presence of ‘yes.’ Anything less than an enthusastic response is not consent,” said panelist Jarred Johnson.
Some of the videos included situations in which there was a problem with sexual assault in a same-sex relationship or in which the male was the victim and the female was the perpetrator.
Beaulieu believes it is important to expand our personal ideas of what sexual assault means, since men are also victims of sexual abuse.
To normalize conversations of sexual violence, The Uncomfortable Conversation incorporates humor into some of its videos.
“Humor helps to break the ice, and relax people enough to take in new ideas. As a survivor, I also know that humor has played a big role in my healing”, says Beaulieu, “Incidents of sexual are never funny, but the culture around it offers many chances to laugh.”
Beaulieu says that people will avoid talking about sexual violence because they are too afraid of saying the wrong thing.
“When people are learning to talk about sexual violence, it’s important we support them and forgive them if they put their foot in their mouth. I welcome anyone of any level of experience to try out a conversation about sexual violence,” says Beaulieu.
Over the next few months, The Uncomfortable Conversation will be sharing these videos with colleges and fraternities, and will eventually reach out to other academic organizations. To learn more, visit http://www.theuncomfortableconversation.org.