the long road by russell mcguire

CounterAct: Sexual Violence Prevention

Creative actions against sexual violence


The CounterAct initiative was a three-year multidisciplinary, campus-wide effort to reduce sexual assault and center healthy sexuality by integrating arts-based practices into the ASU community, with creative partnership from ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

The initiative occurred through three main threads of activity:

More than 50 percent of college sexual assaults occur between the time students arrive on campus and Thanksgiving break, also known as the “red zone” period. To prepare students to intervene during the “red zone” period and beyond, it was necessary to teach the vocabulary to explore one’s sexual growth. Best practices in the sexual assault prevention field utilize peer-to-peer education models; following that model, CounterAct facilitated a student-devised performance of the play “With Each Other.”


"With Each Other" was a performance developed by and for ASU students. The goal of the original production was to teach incoming freshmen about sexual violence prevention. The 35-minute play imagines a graduation ceremony that celebrates the contributions of ASU students towards creating a culture of healthy sexuality and consent on campus.

The With Each Other Performance had the following outcomes:

The inaugural performance took place in August 2017, performed as a part of freshman orientation programming for ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, the College of Liberal Arts and Studies, and Barrett, the Honors College.

Fall 2017

  • 27 students participated in the devising and rehearsal process
  • 675 students reached, and 105 students participated in post-performance workshops

Fall 2018

  • 24 students participated in the devising and rehearsal process
  • 2,000 students reached, including performances on all four campuses

Comments about “With Each Other”:

  • “I have become much more aware of asking for consent in my daily interactions. I am now aware of my own personal touch with others and my responsibility to ask for consent when hugging or engaging in my everyday personal touch with colleagues, friends, and students.”- Nikki Truscelli, “With Each Other” actor
  • “I never saw someone like me on stage until now.” -“With Each Other” audience member
  • “I used to think that if someone was drunk or acting overly sexual at a party, that it was their fault if they got into trouble. I heard someone onstage say that today and realized how stupid it sounded.”-“With Each Other” workshop participant

Related article: Difficult conversation: ASU initiative takes on sexual violence prevention

There were three parts to the arts and academic integration component of the CounterAct Initiative: CounterAct Counter, Seed Grants and an Edited Volume. 

CounterAct Counter

The CounterAct Counter registered CounterActions against sexual violence; the goal of the iniative was to document 880 counteractions, one for each of the 880 acts of sexual violence that occur each day in the United States. The initiative exceeded its goal, documenting 908 CounterActions completed by the ASU community.

counteract counteractions graphic

Seed Grants

Seed Grants provided an opportunity to engage ASU students, faculty and staff to implement a solution on how to address sexual violence by presenting cultural solutions through arts-based and trauma informed practices. The Convening event in April 2018 initiated the process of awarding small-scale sexual violence prevention projects from $200 to $1,200.
Participants applied their trauma-informed practice to creative projects. Grants supported material costs of projects including but not limited to art supplies, marketing printables, research and training.

All Seed Grant recipients were required to: apply trauma based practices to their creative work, integrate arts and design into their projects and receive technical assistance from a sexual violence prevention educator. This was to ensure that all project attendees participate in creative CounterActions that address sexual violence and promote healthy sexuality.

Each person who received CounterAct funding was expected to:

  • Attend one Critical Response Process (CRP) Session with a circle of their peers to provide and receive feedback on projects. CRP was created by Liz Lerman to provide a method for giving and getting feedback on work in progress, designed to leave the maker eager and motivated to get back to work.
  • Attend a Seed Grant orientation session.
  • Participate in a tabling event.
  • Attend a writing retreat to iterate ideas for an edited volume.
  • Document their project toward the CounterAct Counter.
  • Complete assessment documents as needed.

Participants applied their trauma-informed practice to creative projects. Grants supported material costs of projects including but not limited to art supplies, marketing printables, research and training.

Faculty, staff and students implemented 15 projects that led to hundreds of actions to counter sexual violence and promote healthy sexuality.

Project highlights include: 

  • Long before #MeToo: An art-based exhibit revealing a difficult story: Over the course of the Spring 2019 semester, students in Pamela Stewart’s HST 328: Women in U.S. History class engaged with various themes that reflected on current issues affecting women (and others) in American society and the world at large. Each student and the professor created a piece that illustrated how sexual violence has been a re-occuring theme throughout history. They also produced a short video.
  • Sex & Love & Disability: Dawn Gilpin led an event to discuss how people with disabilities are more likely to experience sexual assault, domestic violence and abise. The event also reminded audiences of the variety of visible or invisible disabilities and how that can affect relationships, sex and sexuality. The discussion was moderated by Vanessa Ruiz, professor of practice. The panelists included: Amit Algotar, M.D./Ph.D., Cancer Survivorship Clinic, the University of Arizona Cancer Center, Clinical Weight Loss Program, Banner University Medical Center-South Campus, college athlete (tennis); Ashley Bridwell, LMSW, brain tumor survivor, community advocate, program coordinator at Barrow Concussion and Brain Injury Center; and Amy Silverman, parent, author and advisory board member of National Center on Disability and Journalism. This event was done in collaboration with the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
  • Musical Meditation: A Mantra for Survivors: Tiara Cash and Nika Gueci, from ASU’s Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience, created a living mantra for survivors of sexual violence to provide a form of meditation for anyone who has experienced trauma. The trauma-responsive mantra can be spoken or sung; the intention is to assist people in their process of healing through the practice of meditation. Affirmations include, “I am life. I am strength. I am resolution. I am enough.” The mantra was put to music by an outside musical band, Mulherin, an R&B duo (and identical twin brothers) from Memphis, Tennessee. The mantra was recorded and is accessible on Youtube.

Related article: ASU aims to ‘CounterAct’ sexual violence through the arts

Edited Volume

The CounterAct writing retreat on April 17, 2019 initiated the call for submissions for the Edited Volume.

The following submissions were selected and awarded: 

  • “It’s Not That Simple: Reflections on Ten Years of Sexual Violence Prevention Performances."
  • "Show, if not tell: Hearing visual voices from #MeToo.”
  • "Facilitating Compassionate Conversations About Sexual Violence in Academia: Integrating Trauma-Informed, Empirically-Supported, and Mindful Approaches to Build Community and Increase Awareness."
  • “Toward a Model of Shared Understanding: Learning to Negotiate the ‘Gray Area’ of Consent through Participatory Theatre."
  • "Confronting Sexual Violence Through Feminist Art in the Digital Age: From El Tendedero/The Clothesline Project to #MeToo."

ASU commissioned and Dance Exchange produced “a body, home,” a 45-minute multimedia dance piece on sexual violence performed in the back of a moving truck. The mobile performance asks audiences to interrogate trauma and the healing process while offering parallel programming and workshops in partnership with Survivor Love Letter.


An adapted version of “a body, home” will be available in film for national distribution. The film will be supported by a facilitator to ensure that audiences consider the following:

  • What does it take to move from past trauma?
  • What needs to get packed and unpacked in the process?
  • What is the world that we are moving toward?

counteract performance with boxes

For booking information, please contact


RAINN anti-sexual assault

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization.

Hotline: Online chat (National) / 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

Local centers

Love is Respect

loveisrespect’s purpose is to engage, educate and empower young people to prevent and end abusive relationships.

Call: 1-866-331-9474 (24/7)

Text LOVEIS to 22522*

Or "chat now" online, at the top of their website


Trevor Project

The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning youth.

All services are available 24/7

Phone: 1-866-488-7386

Text START TO 678678

Online counseling

Human Rights Campaign

HRC : Sexual Assault and the LGBTQ Community

The HRC is one of the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.

HRC Front Desk: 202-628-4160

TTY: 202-216-1572

Toll-Free: 1-800-777-4723


Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights

To Help Everyday People Pass Their First Law