In the United States, violence and sexual assault are hard topics to discuss. They are often glazed over, ignored and brushed past. People don’t want to address uncomfortable issues such as domestic violence or rape, especially in a public debate forum.

At Grand Valley State University, the group ReACT! is working to create a dialogue about these problems in our society. ReACT! is a peer theater education troupe composed of GVSU students. The group uses interactive theater performances to raise awareness about interpersonal violence, stalking and sexual assault.

On Monday, the group held several public performances about domestic violence on The Rapid’s Route 50 buses. This creative approach forces students to listen to the group’s message and may be an extremely effective way to, at the very least, help focus more attention on problems that many people face in society every day.

In the United States, often considered to be the land of the free, domestic violence and sexual assault should not be an issue. People should not live in fear of abuse. They should not be forced to look over their shoulder when walking alone. They should not be burdened with memories of personal experiences of assault.

That is not freedom.

However, the reality is that one in every six women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. That statistic is even more drastic when one looks at college campuses. One in four women will be sexually assaulted during her four years at a university. And while the vast majority of sexual assault victims are women, it is important to recognize that men also can be victims of this crime.

Many people don’t realize how many of their fellow college students have to deal with issues such as violence and sexual assault. Attention needs to be drawn to these issues. Perpetrators must face consequences for their actions. Victims and survivors cannot and should not be blamed, and they should receive the help and support they need and deserve. Society needs to take responsibility for these crimes and work to eradicate them.

The beginning steps in working toward reducing these issues are sparking conversations. If issues like abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault are ignored or brushed aside, people won’t be aware of how prevalent these issues are – or even that they are issues that need to be addressed.

The best way to find solutions is to get as many voices involved – speaking up if they suspect someone is being abused or needs help, and bringing their own ideas to the table to come up with solutions to reduce occurrences of abuse or assault.

Thank you ReACT! for your efforts. They are much needed and much appreciated. Keep up the good work.