Women's Freedom Center hosts "The Bystander"

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There's a unique impact when you combine theater with activism, and this month the Women's Freedom Center is excited to host nationally known performer Tim Collins for an innovative one-man play called "The Bystander." His award-winning and multi-character show has been seen across the country, including at military bases, colleges, and high schools. It examines bystander thinking on sexual and domestic violence, helping to model effective strategies for intervention.

Bystander intervention usually conjures up the image of rushing in to stop an assault already in progress, or just calling 911. Both are vital of course, but probably the least-likely scenarios we may experience. Yet there are countless ways to have a meaningful impact much earlier, if we think someone may be in trouble. We all encounter the very situations and environments where offenders are looking to do harm. What's key here is learning to spot such events and recognize options, and this play will give excellent examples.

We're hosting "The Bystander" in September because with school starting, it's prime time for teachable moments — especially on college campuses, where the first six weeks of the fall semester are known as the rape "red zone." Meaning that statistically, it's the time span when first-year female students are at the greatest risk of being sexually assaulted. But sexual violence can happen to anyone, anytime: one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives, and other forms of sexual violence are even more prevalent. No one is untouched by rape culture itself, but we can all learn how to shift norms.

Tim's play helps us think about how to do just that. Very realistic scenarios are followed with some great discussion of topics brought up in the play, including personal responsibility, consent, and the meaning of community. A performer since 2000, Tim has focused on educational shows since 2008. But no matter the age of his audience, he says "the essential issues are the same." And he's been inspired by the feedback of younger folks in particular, steeped as they are in technology: "They still really get theater, and it continues to be a radical force."

Education across the board is beginning to make a difference too. In the past five years he's noticed progress in how male students understand and talk about consent — one recent college student summed it up nicely: "If the girl's not comfortable with something, then the guy shouldn't feel comfortable either about continuing." Beyond exploring these particular topics, Tim has also "been blown away by how eager young men have been in general for positive male role models and guidance."

We're really looking forward to hosting this special event, which Tim — a Marlboro College grad — volunteered to come back and do. Moreover, he's offering this as a fundraiser to benefit the Women's Freedom Center. Suggested donations are on a sliding scale of $5 to $10, but please know that everyone is welcome to join us, and no one will be turned away if you can't pay. Your time, and — if you choose — participation are what's most valuable. For more information, give our office a call at 802-257-7364. You can also learn more about Tim's shows, including watch video clips, at www.timcollinsonline.com

Please help spread the word, and come join us on this memorable night Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. at the Root Social Justice Center, 28 Williams St. in Brattleboro. But a note that this show is intended for adults and older high school-age teens.

The Women's Freedom Center is the local organization in Windham and Southern Windsor County working to end domestic and sexual violence. Follow us on Facebook at Women's Freedom Center and at www.womensfreedomcenter.net. You can reach an advocate on our 24-hour crisis line at 802-254-6954. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.


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