Westminster dedicates show to domestic abuse victims, raises money for Rape Recovery Center
Feb 21, 2019 02:40PM
By Cami Mondeaux
Mary Grace Lewis and Kenzie Campbell join hands at the end of their performance of the monologue “My vagina was a village.” The monologue speaks against sexual violence, rape and genital mutilation and was dedicated to victims of these assaults. (Photo courtesy Cam Welch)
By Cami Mondeaux | [email protected]
“My vagina’s angry,” voices rang out. “It’s pissed off. My vagina’s furious and it needs to talk.”
Not the ordinary dialogue you’d hear in a play, but then again, The Vagina Monologues isn’t the average play. It is one meant to shatter taboos and teach audiences not to be ashamed of their bodies.
Westminster College held their 20th annual Vagina Monologues in the Jewett Center for Performing Arts Vieve Gore Concert Hall Feb. 7-9 to raise money for the Rape Recovery Center.
The Vagina Monologues, written by Eve Ensler, “
is all about empowerment and using your voice,” said Emma Thompson, a junior at Westminster College majoring in technical theatre. “[It’s about] giving a voice to people that maybe don’t feel like they can talk about these things.”
Thompson is the director of The Vagina Monologues at Westminster College and the president of V-Day club on campus. She has been involved with the production since her first year at Westminster and said she has seen the event grow during the past few years.
This year, Westminster saw a record number of people audition to be in the show, Thompson said.
Westminster chose the Rape Recovery Center as its charity to donate money, giving 90 percent of its proceeds to the center and the other 10 percent to the national V-Day’s spotlight charity for incarcerated women.
Westminster dedicated its show to Lauren McCluskey, a University of Utah student who died in October 2018 as a victim of domestic abuse.
Vagina Monologues and V-Day
The Vagina Monologues was written by Eve Ensler, a Tony Award-winning playwright, in 1994 based on dozens of interviews she conducted with women. The play has been translated in over 48 languages and performed in more than 140 countries, according to vday.org.
The play addresses issues such as women’s sexuality and the social stigmas around rape and abuse, according to vday.org.
“The Vagina Monologues shattered taboos,” the website states.
Valentine’s Day 1998, Ensler and a group of women in New York City established V-Day, a nonprofit organization demanding the end of violence toward women and girls.
V-Day is a global movement that “grew out of the untold stories of women” and is dedicated to bringing attention and funds to end violence such as harassment, rape, female genital mutilation, incest, battery and sex slavery, according to vday.org.
Once a year in February, Ensler allows groups to perform The Vagina Monologues to raise money and awareness for anti-violence groups, educating their audiences on the reality of violence against women.
Over 5,800 V-Day events take place annually across the nation, according to vday.org.
These performances began 21 years ago in 1998 and Westminster began performing them on campus in 1999, making 2019 their 20-year anniversary.
Westminster jumped on the bandwagon early, said Westminster’s director Emma Thompson. Every year, the script generally stays the same but can change to address new issues.
At Westminster, Thompson encourages her performers to submit original pieces to be considered. She said she does this to replace some pieces she finds outdated and to include pieces that talk about issues that should be addressed.
These pieces include monologues that are more inclusive toward those who identify outside the gender binary.
“I also realized that there weirdly isn’t a piece about periods,” Thompson said. “So, this year we have an original piece about periods.”
One of the most important aspects of The Vagina Monologues that Westminster’s V-Day club wants the audience to realize is that although these subjects have traditionally been considered taboo, they can and should be talked about.
“Many women or female-identifying people or people with vaginas don’t feel like they can talk about their vaginas,” Thompson said. “Even though it’s like, so important to them. It’s a big part of [their] life and a big part of who [they] are.”
Rape Recovery Center
The Rape Recovery Center is a nonprofit organization located on 1300 East, down the street from Westminster College.
The center aims to help victims of sexual assault and eliminate it altogether. They provide services such as personal advocacy, short- and long-term counseling and a variety of different therapy and support groups.
“First and foremost, we help those targeted by sexual violence,” said Megan Asadian, outreach coordinator at the Rape Recovery Center. “[We help] anyone who identifies with being raped or sexually assaulted. We are open to all primary and secondary victims of sexual assault and empower those who are going through the recovery process.”
The center began in 1974 as a local rape awareness program and opened as the Salt Lake Rape Crisis Center, a private nonprofit. Program volunteers went to local emergency rooms to support admitted rape and sexual assault survivors.
They renamed to the Rape Recovery Center in 1995 and had already established a 24-hour crisis line and a “Code R” which provides immediate service to sexual violence victims.
Westminster and the center have a long-term partnership, Asadian said. The college raises money for the Rape Recovery Center through multiple events on campus, including The Vagina Monologues and their annual Mx. Westminster pageant held on Feb. 5.
“We really appreciate The Vagina Monologues because it’s really central and focused on people coming forward and speaking about difficult things,” Asadian said. “It’s an element of empowerment.”
Westminster dedicates show to Lauren McCluskey
In October 2018, Lauren McCluskey, a University of Utah student athlete was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend. She died a victim of domestic violence.
Westminster dedicated their 20th anniversary of The Vagina Monologues to McCluskey and all victims of domestic abuse. They performed a skit in honor of her memory, reciting the op-ed letter Jill McCluskey, Lauren’s mom, wrote to The Salt Lake Tribune.
“This organization fatally failed her,” Jill McCluskey wrote. “What will it take for them to treat women’s concerns seriously and with urgency when they complain about harassment, peeking through their windows, extortion and impersonating a police officer?”
The death of Lauren McCluskey shook the Salt Lake community, said Emma Thompson, V-Day club president at Westminster.
“It didn’t seem right to do the show without talking about it,” Thompson said.