by Ijeoma Unachukwu
The statistics say that one in every five women will experience sexual assault of some kind in their lifetime. One in every three Latina’s have experienced domestic violence. Black females experience intimate partner violence at a rate of 35% higher than their white counter parts. As many as one quarter of female students experience sexual assault over the course of their college career. If domestic violence is such an issue in minority and college communities, what are we doing to change it? Senior Miquel Whooley and Junior Jake Comito answered that question by simply saying, “No more”. Voice magazine sat down with the two student activists to find out what inspired them and why they think protecting women is important.
VOICE: So we’ve seen the posters everywhere, but tell us about how it all started? Why did you start the no more campaign?
Jake: We really wanted to bring the No More Campaign to campus. It’s already a national campaign and we wanted to use that influence. We got inspiration from famous people like Amy Pohler, Courtney cox, and Eli manning who took pictures in front of the posters. We wanted to bring that message to the University. We started the campaign through residence life and I used my influence as an RA to bring the message to my students. So on a hot October day we stood outside with 7 colored poster boards and took pictures with 80 students who passed by the quads circle. We encouraged all of them to post their pictures in front of the derogatory saying on their social media. By the end of the week we saw over 1000 posts on Facebook alone of people talking about the campaign and the sayings underneath the no more sign.
VOICE: Have you heard any people really changing their opinions, outlook and how they speak based on the campaign?
Jake: Yes and no. It’s more about an unveiling of a conversation because before it was more taboo. When somebody would talk about rape it was a word you would run away from. It’s an uncomfortable conversation with anybody. I think talking about these topics make people develop opinions about it and create a conversation. We think about our job more as informing. We’re informing people about the resources, the statistics, and really getting them involved.
Miquel: Agreed. The campaign is a tool to open up that conversation. Through the different Facebook posts, certain conversations have happened that would have never happened before.
VOICE: Speaking of conversation starters, how did all the boards and pictures that we see in the student center come about?
Miquel: The boards! That was our first kind of event that we did and it was definitely a success. Jake: Before we did that, it was a purely digital campaign. It was fantastic, but it didn’t tap into the population that wasn’t completely connected thru Facebook or twitter or Instagram. We got funding from HOPE and Student Affairs, printed out about 4000 pictures and posted them all over campus. The student centers were so amazing to allow us to use their walls to make an impact. It’s awesome because it’s front and center and it’s the first thing you see.
VOICE: Why are women’s issues and issues of sexual assault so important? Jake: We definitely acknowledge that it pertains more to women, but it’s an equal conversation to men and women. (1/5 for women. 1/6 for men) It’s definitely a women’s issue, but it’s not only a women’s issue.
Miquel: It’s important for girls on campus because there are stereotypical responses when you say “I was attacked or I didn’t feel comfortable”. People always say “Oh what were you wearing? Or did you kiss him before? You’ve been with him before so you have no right to say no.” That needs to stop. Anything that happened before doesn’t mean that you lose all rights to your body. I don’t even know how that makes sense. We’re standing up for all the victims that are blamed and victimized when they should really be celebrated for coming forward and getting their message across so it doesn’t happen to somebody else.
VOICE: You talk a lot about conversation and the words people use. Why are you placing such an emphasis on speech?
Jake: The vernacular you use is very important and it’s one of the most important parts of the campaign. If somebody hears what happened to somebody else when they talked about [their experience] , they would be discouraged from coming out and talking about it themselves if it happens to them.
Miquel: There are trigger words and trigger points. Words that people say can really hurt people. It can bring them back to that day or that moment and do a lot of damage. Some people aren’t even aware of the things they say. If they know even the right or wrong things to say it can make a difference.
VOICE: Why do you think this issue is so relevant to Rutgers right now?
Miquel: It’s a big deal at Rutgers and on all campuses around the country. There’s been a lot of talk about it and so for us to bring it down to Rutgers alone was key. Even though it’s so important that its going on around the world, we’re focusing on Rutgers. Drinking is a big thing at Rutgers, but at the same time it’s not okay to say that somebody is at fault because they’ve been drinking. It’s very common for people to go home with someone they just met that day, but at the same time there are certain things that need to happen or can’t happen.
Jake: This issue at Rutgers was brought to my attention in the beginning of the year by the new vice chancellor Felicia McGinty. She met with all of the student leaders, including residence life about ending sexual violence on campus and how important it is. Through her speech and come research I did, I wanted to give students a voice to speak on these causes. The unfortunate reality is that me and Miquel have seen it ourselves and been through the aftermath of abuse. We feel like that culture and the words used in the aftermath of these incidences needs to change. These words only hurt the victim and create a difficult situation for everybody involved.
VOICE: How do you think the “No More” campaign embodies intersectionality? Jake: We don’t have a set idea of a rape victim or a perpetrator or a bystander. That role can be filled by anyone despite their race, color, age, whatever. That includes how many of those individual characteristics that person may hold. If a person is a white, gay, male, they have to address the situation the same way as a white straight female.
Miquel: Additionally, the people that become involved can also have dual identities. In one way you can be a victim, but when you become involved, you’re an activist. You not only empower others, but you also empower yourself. Because you’re making an effort, it makes you feel like you’re not helpless anymore.
VOICE: Why are women great? Why is the protection of women so important to society?
Miquel: I have a quote and it’s corny but it’s true. “Educate a man and you educate an individual. Educate a woman and you educate a whole community” Women are the first ones to take care of a generation. They’re the ones cooking, and cleaning and almost and always impacted by extreme poverty and anything.
Jake: We’re also part of an evolving society that takes part in so many issues that might have not been confronted in the past. This may have been an issue for women forever. Now we have platforms and resources, and statistics to make sure that this happens to the least amount of women as possible. That way they continue to live their lives the best that they can because that’s what we’ve been working towards for so long.
Miquel: Just imagine a world without women. There would be no life. You can’t marginalize a whole gender because they have a vagina! Just because women are seen as inferior doesn’t mean they’re targets. That’s stupid!
VOICE: I agree! So now that you have you’ve created this campaign and taken all these pictures, what do you want to do next?
Miquel: Right now we go to come speak to club events and club meetings. We table and allow people to come and take pictures. We’re going for immediate impact. We want to be in front of as many people as we can.
Jake: We’re going to all of these organizations so that it can be implanted in their minds. Our next steps are to be an official organization and see how we can involve as many people as we can.
Check out the Rutgers “No More” Campaign on Instagram at @RutgersNoMore and on Facebook at “Rutgers No More”!