On Monday, November 5th, Survivor Alliance was contacted by a student who is currently attending UC Davis about reported inappropriate behavior by a performer hosted by HATCH Feminist Arts and Science Shop, on Wednesday, October 31st. While no members of Survivor Alliance attended the performance, we spoke extensively with the student, read the press release, and viewed a short online video portraying the piece. We make the following statement in support of the student and their experience.
We would like to take this opportunity to condemn art that holds the potential to re-traumatize audience members who are survivors of sexual assault. The specific actions which we condemn constitute denial of consent, reportedly committed by the performer through non-consensual touching and groping, straddling of audience members, and failing to tell the audience until after the performance that they had waived their right to consent by entering the room.
Survivor Alliance is on a mission is to engage society in the third sexual revolution, which requires a cultural shift to end sexual violence. We believe it is of utmost importance to create art and culture that is inclusive, and does not perpetuate oppression and traumatization of our community members.
Art can be a powerful tool to express oneself and engage society in dialogue around controversial issues. However, self-expression should not infringe on the autonomy and boundaries of another individual without their consent, as that reinforces a culture of sexual trauma & oppression, and further silences survivors.
We do not believe that the performer should stop expressing themselves through their art. However, we encourage them to modify their piece to reduce the potential for re-traumatizing audience members who are survivors, in either or both of the following two ways:
A. Informing audience members before they enter the performance space that there is triggering content, and that by entering the building they agree to suspending their right to consent, being touched, and being filmed on videotape
B. Refraining from touching, groping, and/or harming audience members unless consent is granted in advance.
We encourage that UC Davis hold a space for the people affected by this piece to process the triggering that they may have experienced during or after the performance. Furthermore, we encourage UC Davis to provide a workshop for folks to learn how to be allies to survivors, and how to support individuals through triggering situations.
Survivor Alliance stands in solidarity with all who may have been affected by this performance. We hope this statement prompts reflection on how art can either reinforce cycles of trauma, or end them and support our collective healing journey.