Creative actions against sexual violence

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CounterAct is a multidisciplinary, campus-wide effort to reduce sexual assault and center healthy sexuality using the arts. The initiative will catalyze 880 creative acts to counter the 880 acts of sexual violence that occur each day in the United States. CounterAct is an Arizona State University sexual violence prevention initiative, with creative partnership from ASU's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

Work will occur through three main threads of activity:

College transition

Since more than 50 percent of college sexual assaults occur in either August, September, October, or November, the initiative produces "With Each Other," a performance developed by and for ASU students. It is also developing a bystander intervention participatory video for use in ASU 101 classes and residential programming.

Arts and academic integration

The initiative will convene 200 student and faculty artists and non-artists in Sexual Assault Awareness month (April 2018) to build knowledge and skills on using the arts as a primary sexual violence prevention and response strategy. Participants will learn trauma-informed social and civic artistic practices to implement seed-funded projects. Project leads will gather again in April 2019 to share their learning and produce new knowledge.

Signature event

ASU students and faculty will devise a large scale multimedia dance for intergenerational survivors and their allies, literally and metaphorically building ASU’s community of care.

Students gathered around air mattresses in an outdoor courtyard

SEED grants

To support a select group of creative "CounterActions," the initiative is offering seed grants to student, staff and faculty contributors. These grants will support material costs of projects including but not limited to art supplies, marketing printables, etc.

Each person who receives CounterAct funding will be expected to attend one Critical Response Process Session with a circle of their peers to provide and receive feedback on projects. All selected projects will be featured in the CounterAct website, which aims to connect model examples of best practices in the field.

The application period for current seed grants ended November 26, 2018.

CounterAct type


(Total creative counteractions, as of today. Goal 880.)

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Meet the team

Elizabeth Johnson, co-director

Elizabeth Johnson

Elizabeth Johnson (EJ) is a choreographer, dancer and educator with a focus in socially engaged dance practices. Johnson connects communities through choreography, creating dance that promotes civic dialogue and designing participatory experiences that apply artistic practices in multiple contexts. She has a particular interest in working in intergenerational environments, developing embodied structures for learning and promoting leadership development through the arts. Johnson holds a BA in Dance with a minor in Theater from Connecticut College and an MFA from Arizona State University. She has studied at London Contemporary Dance School, taught and performed internationally and was the Associate Artistic Director of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange in Metro D.C. for over a decade. For five years she was at Arizona State University as the Coordinator of Socially Engaged Practice, working with an interdisciplinary team to create new curricula. Elizabeth is presently the Co-Director of a campus wide arts based initiative for sexual violence prevention and is the Associate Artistic Director of Dance Exchange.

Nik Zaleski, co-director

Nik Zaleski

Nik Zaleski is a director, facilitator, playwright and cultural activist rooted primarily in the reproductive justice movement. She is a co-founder of the FYI Performance Company, which designs participatory theater experiences about sexual health and sexual violence. Professionally, she consults on arts-based strategy for the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, CoreAlign, Arizona State University and other organizations. Nik is an Artistic Associate for Sojourn Theater and has directed performance for FYI, Redmoon Theatre, Northwestern University and Erasing the Distance, where she is also a company member. She completed her undergraduate degree in Performance Studies and Gender Studies at Northwestern University and holds an MA in Interdisciplinary Studies from DePaul University, which combined Public Health and Directing coursework.

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