As a student leader and advocate for survivors of assault and gender/dating violence, I have always been involved in programming and outreach in the Duquesne/Pittsburgh community. Since I have served as the President of Students Against Sexual Violence, I have helped market Title IX events such as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, student led awareness programs such as Denim Day, and even widespread prevention and intervention outreach programs with PAAR before this internship experience. Until now, I never realized the benefit I had from my own familiarity with the target ‘audience.’ I’ve never had to think about programming in terms of “how can we get this to appeal to XYZ population?” because the targeted population, in my own experience and work, has always been my own peers and my own University. It’s easy (easier, at least) to think about what kind of social media post will appeal to students when you are a student. Having that solidarity and identification with your target audience makes marketing much easier because it provides insight to the best ways to present information.
I am now faced with a new challenge that lacks this advantage I have always taken for granted. I am helping my site supervisor come up with an exhibition piece on behalf of my student group for the Teal Ball, a large, formal fundraiser annually hosted by PAAR that will occur for the first time since the pandemic. Having attended this event before, I know a bit about what to expect, but I certainly do not know the audience that the exhibition piece will be targeting. I have to find a way to create something that is informative and empowering that appeals to an audience very different from myself: essentially, very wealthy donors who honestly do not know that much about the issues of sexual assault and dating violence. Coming up with a way to inform them is very different than thinking of ways to inform and involve my own peers. I don’t know these people or anything about their lives, and I have no common ground on which to build an exhibition that will meet them where they are and increase their level of awareness. As an educator, I can draw parallels between this task and teaching English. The commonality is finding a way to assess what someone already knows, what sorts of sociocultural factors make up their identity, and find a way to make my content (in this case, the notion that clothing does not equal consent) meaningful to them right where they are. While the prospect of teaching something so serious to people I know nothing about is intimidating, I am also excited and honored to have been given the task. If even one guest at the Teal Ball walks away from the exhibit knowing just a little bit more about the dangers of victim blaming, it will have been a job well done.