Every 109 seconds someone in the United States experiences sexual assault.
Students found “responsible” for sexual assaults on campuses often face little or no punishment while their victims’ lives are frequently turned upside down. Injustices plague school judicial systems, making sexual assault an important topic of discussion especially with the recent court rulings that have been blasted all over the news and social media.
Recently, Wittenberg’s Chapter of No Woman Left Behind (NWLB) president Aleister Miller organized the first Writing Trauma: Spoken Poetry Workshop, which took place in the Womyn’s Center located in Shouvlin.
Miller’s vague goal for the workshop was to promote and encourage people to attend and speak at the open-mic during Take Back The Night which was also hosted by NWLB. Take Back the Night is a night set aside to give survivors, friends and family members the opportunity to speak out; to shatter the silence that sometimes surrounds the topic of sexual violence and assault.
Admittedly, Miller stated that writing trauma deviated from that goal, but felt it was undeniably worth it, as the circle of support and comfort they we able to provide for each other in such a brief first meeting was, in his words, “incredible.”
At the end of the workshop, the meeting became a safe space for trauma survivors to share and support one another. Each attendee was given a list of prompts to choose from and time to write for several minutes followed by the opportunity to share their poetry aloud with the group. Miller felt he was nervous for his first personally organized event, but was pleased with the turnout and support and level of unique comfort brought to the workshop by everyone who attended.
“Poetry is a way to perform one’s emotions, to wear one’s heart on their sleeve, and to express one’s identity. As a transgender and queer person, spoken poetry has been an incredibly helpful tool for dealing with and expressing my emotions on gender, rape culture, my own experiences with trauma, and LGBTQ+ issues,” Miller said.
Miller went on to say that spoken word is opposite of a journal, as diaries and journals are viewed private, yet they both allow anyone to express emotions and experiences however they wish. He compared private journals, articles and theater to writing speaking poetry, “spoken poetry is straight to the point, as elegant, or as nonsense-filled as one desires.”
He feels that spoken word allows for unlimited creative freedom and expression.
When asked if this workshop would be a returning weekly, Miller said that he spoke with a few attendees about making it into a bi-weekly journal or discussion-based meeting, and many seemed interested. Miller stated that many people feel as though a “trauma-centered safe space on campus is definitely needed, but doing it weekly may be too emotionally draining.”
Miller was optimistic that such a meeting and space will be coming in to light in the future, and recommended that the Wittenberg community keep an eye out for updates on Wittenberg’s Chapter of No Woman Left Behind’s Instagram: (@witt_nwlb).