The Public Health Student Association will bring a play to campus this week to raise awareness about sexual assault.
“The Haze,” a solo theater performance about a sexual assault survivor exposing thousands of untested rape kits at the San Francisco Police Department, will come to the Marvin Center this Thursday. Zannah Herridge-Meyer, the co-president of the Public Health Student Association, said the organization hopes the play will tackle campus issues, like sexual assault and mental health, in new ways.
“The Haze” is a one-woman play written and performed by Heather Marlowe that tells the story of Marlowe’s rape in San Francisco, including how her rape kit was not processed by police because they believed it did not merit a full investigation.
Herridge-Meyer said she pitched the idea to bring the play to GW to the PHSA this fall because she knows Marlowe personally and had heard how powerful the play was on other campuses. She said Marlowe was a friend of her sister’s growing up, and she knew her at the time when she was sexually assaulted.
“I watched the whole process of this terrible thing that happened to her, but she created such a positive force for it,” Herridge-Meyer said. “When I became a student here and got involved, I knew it was a priority to bring this event to campus.”
The organization regularly brings speakers and films to campus but has not tackled the issue of sexual assault awareness and proper care for rape kits this year, Herridge-Meyer said. She said she had noticed other events covering the topic of sexual assault seem to be more geared toward undergraduate students, but she hopes the play will educate graduate students.
“We really think intentionally that we are bringing events to campus that are important and timely,” Herridge-Meyer said. “We are bringing this conversation to campus in a new way.”
The Public Health Student Association hosted a screening of a documentary last year about campus sexual assault.
Herridge-Meyer said the play can start conversations about sexual assault, and audiences can experience the situation as Marlowe acts it out. After the play ends, the group will run a “talk back” session.
Beginning this year, the Public Health Student Association has hosted open town-hall meetings to hear students’ input and opinions, Herridge-Meyer said. The group has hosted themed meetings to address relevant campus issues, and last month’s topic was mental health.
“If we are supposed to be the voice of students then we need to hear what students concerns are and not assume that small amount of people involved in the leadership can speak for students,” Herridge-Meyer said. “We can empower students to identify and properly intervene when students show signs of struggling.”
Marlowe, the creator and performer of “The Haze,” said that when she was sexually assaulted she could not remember her experience because she was drugged, and the case became more unclear when her rape kit was ignored by police. Marlowe was already involved in theater and decided to turn her experience into a play to share her story, she said.
Marlowe said she has performed at more than a dozen campuses, and the play includes educational elements.
“This happened to me, and I have been able to articulate it in a way that is more direct through the theatrical experience,” Marlowe said. “People who attend can glean more from that then perhaps they would from a lecture. There is a lot more personal narrative and personal experience that makes it worth attending.”
Kalpana Vissa, the co-president of Students Against Sexual Assault, said the organization is co-sponsoring the event, which means they will advertise for the event and members will attend.
She said having survivors come to campus and speak about their experiences is very powerful because it can support survivors at GW.
“It is always good to have people outside of GW and inside of GW provide us with any insight,” Vissa said. “So bringing that and bringing light and awareness to the fact that this is an issue that is happening to people all over the nation. This isn’t just happening at GW. It is happening at a lot of different places.”
Rory Muhammad, the Title IX coordinator, said the Title IX office is not cosponsoring the play, but he is pleased to see student groups take the initiative to sponsor programs that bring awareness to sexual assault and educate the community.
“Programming like this helps to address issues that hopefully will make our community safer,” Muhammad said.