Posted by: rcieri | May 4, 2009

Justice on Postcards: PostSecret-inspired student project helps sexual assault victims heal

poastcard1It was her first year at Elon, and she thought he’d be one of her first college friends. She never imagined that she’d be the victim of acquaintance rape.

“I still get chills down my spine whenever I think about it,” senior Jill Medhus said.
Medhus has spoken at Take Back the Night and almost every other sexual assault awareness event, but now she is taking on something much bigger. Last week, Medhus revoked her anonymity from the Sexual Assault Restorative Justice project, her senior project for the Isabella Cannon Leadership program.

SARJ was inspired by PostSecret, the widely popular Web site and book series that allows anyone to anonymously tell a secret through postcard art. Through SARJ, anyone affected by sexual assault — a victim or otherwise — can express his or her secret anonymously as a step in the healing process.

Medhus originally decided to conceal her identity as the founder of the project.
“It was to honor the voices of those who had been silenced,” Medhus said. “It shouldn’t matter who I am. I wanted it to be a community effort.”

 Medhus feared seeing her name on the project would make people hesitate to share their secrets and that she might receive hate mail. But she soon realized that she could better spread the word herself.

Although much of the Elon community is aware of Medhus’s experience with sexual assault, she has yet to tell some members of her family.

“I’m nervous. I hadn’t told them before because I was afraid they would pull me out of Elon, but now that I’m about to graduate, I don’t have that fear anymore,” she said.

Medhus has been passing out 300 blank postcards, on which participants can express themselves. Those who write a return address on the back of the postcard will receive information about the resources available to them.

Postcards can be mailed to Leigh-Anne Royster, coordinator for personal health programs and community well-being.

postcard2Every postcard will go into an anonymous file that will eventually comprise the final product, a book of secrets. Until then, each postcard will be posted on the SARJ Web site, which will be updated over time, similar to the PostSecret Web site.

“I was never a regular follower of PostSecret until I started this project,” Medhus said. “But now I look at it all the time.”

Medhus hopes her project will help change community attitudes toward sexual assault.
“It’s one step in making sexual assault unacceptable at Elon,” she said. “It happens everywhere, and I want to enable restorative justice for everyone, even if they choose not to prosecute.”

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Responses

  1. This was my exact experience — AT ELON. I’m class of 2000. I’m sorry this happened to you too. Maybe if I did something in 1996, you wouldn’t have had this experience.


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