I Will Walk with You Seeks to Raise Awareness about Sexual Violence
Public art event invites BU community to create a trail of footprints to SARP
Keara Russell wants sexual violence survivors to know they are not alone.
“I’m particularly passionate about this issue of raising awareness and trying to invite more people into that conversation, and my skill set is in art and public art,” she says. “So I figured I’d just marry the two.”
Three years ago, senior Russell (CAS) launched the interactive public art event I Will Walk with You, featuring a trail of spray-painted teal chalk footprints across campus leading to the front door of BU’s Sexual Assault Response & Prevention Center (SARP). The idea for the project grew out of a Kilachand Honors College assignment for a seminar Russell took freshman year called Art for the City: a proposal for a public art installation that could engage the local community.
“I don’t think I would have had a fully fledged proposal and project had it not been for the class,” Russell says.
Now in its third year (Russell was studying abroad last year), the 2019 I Will Walk with You is today, Monday, April 8, from 10 am to 4 pm. The event kicks off a series of art activities, panel discussions, and other campus events to mark Sexual Assault Awareness Week, part of an annual monthlong campaign to raise awareness and promote education about sexual assault prevention.
Russell will begin spray-painting at SARP, make her way east on Commonwealth Avenue, cross the street at FitRec, and continue down the street until 4 pm. The first year, the trail ended at the George Sherman Union, and the following year past Questrom. She welcomes all members of the BU community to join her.
“The prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses is known, but rarely discussed,” Russell says. “Essentially, my idea of the project was that all the footprints collectively would visually demonstrate the amount of support that’s in the community.”
SARP prevention program administrator Ashley Slay says the location of the project—in the center of campus—is a deliberate effort to engage students who might not otherwise become involved with the issue.
“After doing some research on things that have been done in the past that people really connected with, the I Will Walk with You project was one of those activities that got pretty much the whole campus involved,” says Slay. “And I’d really like to see that happen again, and continue.”
SARP ambassadors and prevention educators will be present along the path to speak with students about how they can get involved, Slay says.
“I want this to be like a first step, an introduction to SARP,” says Russell. “We’ve incorporated flyers and conversations with specific language, so that way, after getting this introduction, people feel like they maybe have some action steps or things to move forward with.”
The teal footprints, designed to mirror the color used in the national Sexual Assault Awareness Week campaign, are created using stencils and chalk spray paint. Russell says she wanted to make the project environmentally friendly and easy to implement so anyone could participate.
Approximately 200 people took part in the debut I Will Walk With You in spring 2016. Participation more than doubled the following year and Russell hopes even more people will turn out and become involved this year.
The event has now been adopted at other campuses. Erin Berube, a friend of Russell’s from high school, started an I Will Walk with You event at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in fall 2016. Clark University, in Worcester, will also undertake the project this year.
When Russell graduates in May, she plans to leave SARP with the materials necessary for the event to continue. “It feels good, knowing that I was able to do something with my time here that isn’t entirely for myself,” she says.
The Center for Gender, Sexuality & Activism is hosting the following events tied to Sexual Assault and Awareness Week.
Monday, April 8, through Friday, April 12
Survivors of sexual assault and loved ones of survivors decorate T-shirts to express their experiences related to sexual violence.
Location: Gallery@BU Arts Initiative, GSU second floor
Time: 9 am to 5 pm
Tuesday, April 9
BARCC Survivor Speakers Panel
Presented by the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC), the Center for Gender, Sexuality & Activism, and the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground, featuring survivors of sexual assault sharing their stories to educate others about the realities of sexual violence.
Location: GSU Backcourt
Time: 7:30 to 9 pm
Wednesday, April 10
Becoming More Visible Film Screening and Panel Discussion
This 70-minute documentary and panel discussion highlights the importance of supporting trans* youth.
Location: 100 Bay State, Room 613
Time: 6 to 8 pm
Thursday, April 11
Clothesline Project Reception
Hosted by SARP at the BU Arts Initiative, a discussion about the project and about self-care.
Location: Gallery@BU Arts Initiative, GSU second floor
Time: 4 to 6:30 pm
Friday, April 12
Take Back the Night
Sponsored by Center for Gender, Sexuality & Activism group FemCo
A rally for survivors of sexual assault and their allies followed by a march (weather permitting) from Marsh Plaza down Comm Ave and back around to the BU Beach.
Location: BU Beach
Time: 5 pm
In the event of rain, I Will Walk with You will take place on Thursday, April 10, from 10 am to 4pm.
Sexual Assault Awareness Week can bring up difficult emotions for some individuals. If you are looking for a safe space, the Center for Gender, Sexuality & Activism, in the GSU basement, will be open all week; wellness kits are available in the office.
Senior Abigail Freeman (COM) can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good moves! Is she also responsible for the great “Eat the Rich” tags along the river?