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‘You Might Be Causing Harm If…’

Beginning Jan. 17, you will see stark black-and-white posters all over campus, each with a pointed statement on it: “You Might Be Causing Harm If…” the text reads, followed by a description of common but problematic behavior.

The posters are part of a campaign created by the McCluskey Center for Violence Prevention Research & Education (MCVP) to bring attention to behaviors that have been normalized but cause harm to others.

The center’s staff, with students taking the lead, identified eight behaviors that could be harmful and wrote blogs about their topic. While the behaviors may seem insignificant, each one can push another person’s boundaries and may lead to bigger acts of harm. Viewers can read the blogs by scanning a QR code included on every poster.

“Usually when people do awareness education, we focus on teaching people how to avoid experiencing harm,” said Chris Linder, center director. “We want to turn that on its head and focus instead on teaching people how to not cause harm.”

The campaign began forming last fall as the center’s student staff reflected on how to share information they were learning about through a guided reading curriculum.

“We made many lists of behaviors,” said Jilly Mcbane, a student staff member. “From there, everyone chose a topic to write on. It was cool to see the spin that everyone took on their topics.”

The topics address specific behaviors that “people do that they may not realize could be hurting someone else,” Mcbane said. “A lot of times when you are talking about things like sexual violence, it can really seem broad, vague and confusing. You tell someone ‘Don’t assault,’ but there are all these other things that could be happening that cause harm but aren’t talked about as much.”

Whitney Hills, associate director for education, said the campaign is intended to provoke individual thought and conversation. It was great watching the student team develop the campaign, Hills said.

“It gave them the confidence to realize they knew what the heck they were talking about and how much they had learned while working with the MCVP,” she said. “I’m really excited because I feel like these aren’t topics that are openly talked about, it’s more hush-hush between individuals, so it’s going to be exciting to see them around campus and pulled out of academic and professional spaces.

“We want to change people’s ideas and ways of thinking and, in turn, their behaviors,” Hills said. “We’re curious to see people mention the posters and if they create larger conversations on campus and elsewhere.”

Yulisa Padilla, a student staff member, said she’s never seen a project like this on campus.

“Although we can anticipate that some people may have some reservations about a campaign so bold and upfront, I am interested in seeing how we can learn from these responses and continue to progress our work here at the MCVP,” Padilla said. “As people on campus see the posters, I hope they will engage in self-awareness and begin to think of how the posters may relate to their personal lives. Even if they cannot relate directly, I hope it will make them think of possibly other people they know who have experienced this kind of harm or have caused some of the types of harm mentioned in the posters.”