Body Language is a production of trial and triumph that educates and encourages survivors and supporters to continue being a beacon of light in the fight to raise awareness about sexual assault.
When the phrase “Me Too”, coined by Tarana Burke in 2006, gained traction nearly two years ago with the reporting of high-profile male entertainment executives, actors and singers being accused of sexual assault, it created a firestorm on social media that gave space and a voice to millions of women, men and children survivors. Finally, there was a space to share stories, connect with other survivors and begin to heal. In their return to the 2019 Cincy Fringe Festival, True Body Project with Body Language asks: "What does it mean when a personal trauma becomes a hashtag?”
The process of experiencing and healing from sexual assault in any form requires many things. True Body Project peeled back the layers to what that process may look like with the vulnerable yet strong and poised performances of six individuals who recounted the stories of sexual assault and recovery from various members of the Cincinnati community.
The road to healing following sexual trauma can be delicate, much like the single stemmed red rose that each of the actors held throughout the hour-long performance. As they spoke, petals from the flowers were torn from the stem, which signaled a shedding of the pain and shame that many feel from being assaulted.
According to nonprofit RAINN, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted every 92 seconds. Every 92 seconds. What True Body Project showed with this production is that sexual assault transcends race, gender, culture and age. When the personal trauma of those who have experienced sexual assault travels virtually via hashtag, some of the aforementioned traits are used against survivors to diminish their voice.
One of the most pivotal points of the production was when the cast moved in unison in a circle spewing various hashtag phrases that represent how the evolution of social media has changed the way society views sexual assault and its survivors. While it can create room to connect, heal and raise awareness, it can also grant freedom to hateful rhetoric, and in effect re-victimize thousands all over again. A powerful lesson is given to the audience at this moment. We must be mindful of the words that we say, verbally and non-verbally (in this case through strokes on a keyboard) as they stay with a person forever and can change the way they view both themselves and society.
A glaring omission from the production is the lack of more faces representing people of color and men. But one must consider if this is the choice of True Body Project or that of American society where reports of sexual assault by people of color and men are not valued. I believe it is the latter over the former.
Nevertheless, True Body Project’s production of Body Language comes at a critical time where the conversation about sexual assault and its effect on those that we are close to and those afar are wholly necessary to the reconciliation and healing of our world. Body Language is a production of trial and triumph that educates and encourages survivors and supporters to continue being a beacon of light in the fight to raise awareness about sexual assault.