October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, but at Western Carolina University it’s an issue Arika Morrison takes seriously year-round.
Last year, Morrison, the sexual and interpersonal violence care coordinator for Counseling and Psychological Services, brought Traveling Postcards to WCU, a program created by the Women’s Wisdom Initiative in which participants create postcards for survivors of sexual violence.
After participating in the program for a couple of years in Asheville, Morrison spoke with its founder, Caroline Lovell, about implementing Traveling Postcards at WCU. WCU was the first college or university to participate in the program.
“She was really open to it,” Morrison said. “I thought that students could get a lot out of that experience, to understand more about gender violence and what happens around the world, what happens in their communities, what happens on campus, how they can have a voice and be change agents, and how their postcard can be a voice to someone that they’re more than likely never going to meet.”
Traveling Postcards is an interactive healing arts workshop where participants learn about the impact of gender violence worldwide. The program takes about 90 minutes. Morrison talks about gender violence and what it means before showing a three-minute video clip of people making postcards.
The cards are created in silence with the participants hand-making art on a postcard. Once completed, participants gather and share one thing about their postcard. The cards are then collected, and last spring Morrison had an art installation at Intercultural Affairs where the postcards, about 60 in all, were hung from the ceiling and put on display on vintage suitcases to go along with the traveling postcards theme. From there they were sent to the Women’s Wisdom Initiative where they were redistributed globally.
The workshops generally consist of about 15 people and include both survivors and non-survivors.
“I’m meeting to talk to folks in Greek life,” Morrison said. “I’d really like to do it with sororities. It’s about gender violence, but we’re talking about domestic violence. We’re talking about sexual violence. We’re talking about all of those things based on how we identify empower.”
Last year, Morrison had about 70 students participate as she hosted the program for a couple of classes, a conference and various trainings and student organizations. She even had the staff at CAPS participate.
“It was sort of like testing the water to see how students responded to it,” Morrison said. “It was all very positive. That’s what I needed to see first, that this was something that made a difference, made a change. Now I’m trying to figure out how to do more of it, how do we advertise it.
“It’s a beautiful program. It’s really different and I love doing it.”
According to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, one in three women around the world will be beaten, raped or face other abuse in her lifetime. Domestic violence affects one in four women in the U.S. Morrison also points out that she works with a lot of male survivors and people who don’t identify as women.