It’s no secret that we here at Feministing are huge fans of Ali Safran and her powerful blog “Surviving in Numbers,” which displays testimony from survivors of sexual assault via powerful hand-written posters. Since launching her project back in April of 2013, Ali has continued her bad-ass-ness advocacy by highlighting the words of fellow survivors, speaking up campus sexual assault justice, and supporting countless survivors through her genuine and thoughtful work.
We were inspired to celebrate both Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Surviving In Numbers’ one year anniversary. So now, without further ado, the Feministing Five with Ali Safran!
Suzanna Bobadilla: It’s been one year since you’ve launched “Surviving in Numbers.” How has the project developed since its start back in April of last year?
Ali Safran: I initially started it to reach survivors at four local Massachusetts campuses — those campuses being Tufts, Boston University, Mount Holyoke, and U-Mass Amherst. I was hoping to show people that assault happens everywhere, not just on campuses where it is focused on in the news. Since then, that’s still true for sure, and I still get submissions from different campuses. I still go and give workshops on helping college survivors. But my work has also gone into developing curriculum for high schoolers that I have been implementing on how to support peers who have already experienced violence and how to prevent violence.
SB: Could you share more about how you see your project fitting into a large conversation within anti-sexual assault narratives?
AS: I really leave the format of submitting someone’s story as being up to them — how much depth they want to go into is up to them. If they want to tell me the specific details of their experience, that’s fine. If they want to talk about more specific details of who was not helpful to them after the fact — for example a family member or an administrator that they might have told — that could be really powerful. A lot of the time we hear a lot we hear about how fellow peers are not being supportive, but I think important to hear about how law enforcement is not supportive and how people who we are told are supposed to help are often a part of the problem.
SB: How can people help support ‘Surviving in Numbers?’
AS: I am currently running a donation campaign to double the impact of Surviving in Numbers in the coming year. It’s had a lot of reach all across the world. It’s being used in a bunch of classrooms in Turkey and has viewers from 12 different countries, which I know from Google Analytics. I’m hoping to expand that this year and reach more survivors and to expand the prevention curriculum just beyond local high schools which is where I have been so far.
SB: Wait, that’s awesome about Turkey. Can you explain more about how that happened?
AS: Yeah! I got an email from a teacher asking if it’s okay to use our website in our classroom to talk about the impact of sexual violence and the impact of when peers tell their stories, and I said ‘Okay!’
SB: Where do you see your project heading the next year and where are you headed as well?
AS: I’m hoping to expand the curriculum side, the prevention side of things and reach more people that way. Not just in high school because I think it’s important to reach people before they get to high school. Obviously some survivors experience violence before they start freshman year of high school so there is not reason not to reach those people.
Also, I am hoping to expand the team eventually. I have a curriculum research assistant who I am bringing on through a small grant, that I am hoping to have more people who can help out with all sorts of things. Poster making, more curriculum stuff, other prevention things.
I am also partnering with the NO MORE Campaign in Pennsylvania. We just launched a joint effort on their website.
SB: What advice would you give people who are starting out on using media (both old and new) to creating change?
AS: The best advice I can give to an activist is that it’s hard to do the work and not be overwhelmed by it sometimes. A lot of this is because of the nature of the work. It’s important to remember to take care of yourself and how actually you can make space for other people by taking care of your own well-being.
Suzanna Bobadilla runs the Feministing Five and works in the Bay Area.