Rutgers says 'no more' to sexual violence, domestic abuse
Two weeks ago on Oct. 1, Jake Comito gathered about 60 blue 3-by-2-foot poster boards with “NO MORE” printed at the top to Quad Circle on Livingston campus, where students were walking through and asked what the boards were all about.
The Rutgers Business School junior and resident assistant would then explain that he and a few close friends have taken the initiative to align with the Joyful Heart Foundation’s campaign against sexual violence and domestic abuse, "NO MORE."
Comito bared the scorching outdoor heat for five hours to take photos of various students standing in front of the posters to localize and personalize the national message toward the University and violence on college campuses in general.
These images, among others taken before and after the photo event, are posted on social media and distributed to a number of people including other RAs who have posted them in their respective residence halls.
“The genesis of our initiative is this flyer that says, 'NO MORE' on the top and it has the symbolic blue emblem as the ‘O’ in ‘NO.’ And then underneath the 'NO MORE,' there are sayings that people within the flyer are saying 'no more' to,” Comito said. “We are saying 'no more' to these stereotypical sayings that kind of happen often on campus but are not good.”
In collaboration with friends Miquel Whooley, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and Summer McSpirit, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, #RUSaysNoMore aims to increase awareness for the cause on campus by expanding the posters to print and digital formats.
Comito had introduced the campaign to Rutgers hoping to highlight the stigma associated with the conversation around sexual violence and domestic abuse.
Comito created the boards with the help of his father who works at GlobalSoft Digital Solutions, who used his own self-created PDF files of the poster layout to put onto the foam core boards. Comito said his father donated the boards, considering the technology and material are fairly pricey.
“I thought this was a good idea because the NO MORE campaign is a global campaign. (NO MORE) has reached 1.6 billion people around the United States,” he said. “Some photos have received a lot of recognition. One in particular had 72 likes on Facebook.”
He said he said seen sexual violence and domestic abuse first hand, and has also seen the repercussions of it. He thinks it is appalling and disgusting, which is why raising awareness is severely important, especially within colleges.
“It’s a place that is suppose to be fun and educational and developmental,” he said.
Placing students inside the posters stemmed from the original NO MORE posters where celebrities posed strongly under the words, “NO MORE,” Comito said..
One of the common phrases in dialogue that shames victims is “well, she was drunk,” Comito said.
“And that one is something we have all heard before in exchange for rape or domestic abuse … These sayings are sayings that are common. They are excuses rather than actions,” he said.
Other stigma include “she’s asking for it” and “ this wouldn’t happen at my school,” Whooley said.
The reason for Whooley’s involvement in the campaign as a survivor of sexual violence at Rutgers is to experience a “sense of empowerment,” which comes from standing up and having a voice to help other people.
“To end domestic violence and sexual assault you need every voice to stand together,” she said. “It is important to educate yourself and others, so that you can be more equipped to help a friend in need or even yourself if you were ever in a similar situation. I think that is one of our main goals, when we thought about what we want to see come out of this campaign.”
Both McSpirit and her mother are survivors of sexual assault. Even before coming to study at Rutgers, sexual assault and violence was a deeply important topic for her.
“After my own assault, this was something I wanted to come out and speak forward about because a lot of the reactions that I have been getting reactions similar to the little sayings on the posters we make and I think it is really important because I think a lot of students don’t even realize that when they are making these statements,” she said.
Today, the trio have accomplished clicking more than 120 pictures of students standing in front of the board.
Comito will be interviewed tomorrow by two of the NO MORE campaign leaders, Communications and Digital Manager Rachel Haas and Communications and Outreach Coordinator Emma Bethel. They plan to feature his work on the official NO MORE blog.
In the future, Comito said they plan on holding events on the other three campuses in collaboration with Residence Life to continue to spread awareness around Rutgers.
“It has been really awesome to see the conversation this campaign has been sparking because now people are realizing that they were never taught that saying these things potentially hurts the victim and continues the cultural dialogue,” McSpirit said. “Its empowering to be able to stand up against that and let people know that it is not okay to say these things.”