Club Profile: Not in Our House Task Force advocates for student safety

MSU is the only university in Montana with a task force that works for the personal safety of students on and off campus. The Not in Our House (NIOH) Task Force arose from the Not in Our State Sexual Assault Summit in August 2013. The task force is unique in that it has representatives from a plethora of student organizations; all sororities and fraternities, sports teams and ASMSU are represented.

According to faculty advisor Joseph Schumacher, who started the organization as a student in October 2013, the NIOH Task Force was “created to start a conversation about sexual assault prevention and response on MSU’s campus,” and has expanded upon that goal to “build a community of responsibility and respect that practices bystander intervention and does not tolerate violence.” Task Force Student Chair Kyra Morrissey said the group’s purpose was to make sure “our community is a safe place to be.”

On Feb. 3, the task force screened the movie “Mask You Live In,” a movie which looks at “America’s narrow definition of masculinity,” Morrissey said.  She elaborated by mentioning a popular male stereotype considered in the movie—that “they’re tough and they don’t cry.” The event was a success; students packed the Procrastinator Theater and professors were present for a panel discussion afterwards.

A unique aspect of the NIOH Task Force that is their connection to other clubs on campus to make a greater impact. The club Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA) have an upcoming event called the Bozeman Monologues, to be held on March 8 at the Emerson Center. Molly Wright, president of SASA, said that the intent is to “start dialogue about a subject that is kind of hard to talk about sometimes.” The monologues are based on Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” and are open to the public. In addition to the performances, the event will provide information from Bridger Care and the VOICE Center.  

The event starts at 7 p.m. and costs $5 for the general public and $3 for students; all proceeds go to SASA’s “Survivor Fund,” a completely student-managed reserve intended for survivors of sexual assault in need of basic necessities like a change of clothes or a bus ticket.

In addition, the Week of Action (April 4-8) is an opportunity for students to get involved, known for the placement of flags in the grass along the Centennial Mall.  Flags represent individual pledges from students to “stand against interpersonal violence,” according to Morrissey.  These flags are a visual reminder of the widespread problem of sexual assault, Wright said, where red flags represent the US average of around 350 people sexually assaulted on a college campus per year, and blue flags represent a student’s pledge. There are various other events during the week, including “Take Back the Night” on Thursday, April 7, put on by SASA.  Wright said this is a “vocal stance against sexual assault” where students march and make noise from the Centennial Mall to The Baxter downtown.  A “Rock Against Rape” concert will be held upstairs in The Baxter to close the night, which is open to the public.

The VOICE Center is located on the third floor of the SUB and gives free, confidential, 24/7 counseling to victims of sexual assault, stalking and verbal abuse.  When necessary, the office will work in conjunction with Title IX and local police to ensure student safety. Student volunteers work with the office and there is always opportunity to get involved, said Wright.

The NIOH Taskforce welcomes all fee-paying students and meets on the third Tuesday of each month at 5 p.m. in the SUB. The club email is msunotinourhouse@gmail.com, and the VOICE Center can be reached at 994-7069.