New Perspectives on Gender-Based Violence Brought to Life at the Opening Night of Neda Wants to Die

Ashley Vandervelde
Collections Intern

1 in 3: What Does it Take For You to be Outraged? As curated by the World Bank, was designed to be an educational format for the issue of gender-based violence (GBV). The World Bank brought together a large body of fine art, but also wanted to include the theatrical arts to humanize the issues and connect with audiences. Neda Wants to Die: How Thin is the Line Between Perpetrators and Victims? as written by playwright Luigi Laraia is a dramatic one-act play to describe the different perspectives and roles of victims, perpetrators, and social workers/officers affected by sexual GBV in a conflict-ridden country. The vagueness of the setting is intentional to push the idea that GBV does not just happen in a few areas of the world. It is a worldwide pandemic and one that we have yet to find the best way to solve it and promote peace.

unspecifiedNeda Want to Die sets out to help change the public’s understanding of GBV. John, a United Nations High Commission for Refugees officer as played by Dr. Richard Tanenbaum (a psychologist in his daily life), takes the role of the countless people worldwide who seek to control and ultimately stop the rates of GBV. His character has given up his life to commit to helping refugees seeking asylum. Karen Elle takes on the role of Neda, a woman who has come to UNHCR office to seek help and care for her unborn child, and to help escape her abuser. Laurent is a fruit salesman who is running from the ongoing war and who seeks protection services that John might offer. His character, played by Sean Gabbert, is a title character that changes the audience’s perspectives on GBV and gives the viewer a heart-wrenching twist as to the potential source and root cause of this violence . The actors gave an emotional and impactful performance that had audience members riveted.

john, laurent, neda
(left to right) John, Neda, and Laurent interacting and building the plotline during their first appearances on the stage.

The performance was followed by a panel discussion with the playwright, the members of the cast, and three individuals from the community who work to help control GBV. Jim Duckham, the chief of police at Ball State University, informed audience members about how much has changed in favor of the victims of sexual crimes in the last 30 years. Chief Duckham said, “The vocabulary has changed, we no longer address them as victims, but survivors”. At Ball State, he and the other campus officers are reaching out to the women in a softer way. Events like “Lunch with a Cop” are meant to help students not feel threatened by the presence of the law enforcement, but to help create a better basis of trust, so that should individuals encounter violence, they can comfortably seek out the law for help and not remain silent.katie

Likewise, Katie Slabaugh, Associate Dean of Students and Title IX Coordinator for Ball State University, spoke out about her position to help those who seek care after a sexual crime, such as an assault or stalking. Ms. Slabaugh was touched by the dialogue of the play and mentioned that some of the script moved her in such a way because it related to the things she hears from survivors on a regular basis.

Teresa Clemmons, Executive Director of A Better Way Services in Muncie, gave her perspective on what it is like to be an advocate in our community. She is proud to say that, “Our community is more proactive than most”. We have places where survivors of sexual violence can seek refuge including emergency shelter and counseling services. She regretfully claims that even though we have these resources the problem is not that simply resolved. John’s character once mentions in Neda Wants to Die, “I’m employable forever”. That dialogue struck a chord in her. Ms. Clemmons has worked fighting GBV for 20 years and she says that it “frustrates me that we haven’t solved the problem.” However, she noted that steps forward have been made and she is honored to have been a part of it. Her words of hope for the future of controlling GBV were not only caring and sincere, but also personally uplifting.

The impact of 1 in 3 engrained in me a new awareness for how this kind of violence exists all across the globe. Having seen Neda Wants to Die, my perspectives have been broadened even further. I can personally say that I now have a more profound sense of every party involved in controlling GBV. I have also been enlightened to the roles of the perpetrator and victim, and the multiple ways they can exist. But I am also considering my community and how grateful I am to know that there are numerous resources in the Muncie area. This theatrical portion of the exhibition was a valuable supplement and will not always be shown alongside 1 in 3. It gave me a new window of awareness and understanding. If I had not attended, I would have regretted not having the opportunity to see it. I hope every community is able to have the same experience of seeing the play—my world is better for it.

group
(Left to Right) Dr. Robert LaFrance, Karen Elle, Dr. Richard Tanenbaum, Luigi Laraia, Tania Said, Sean Gabbert, and Karin Orr
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