When asked whether it was difficult discussing such a taboo topic as sexual assault with college faculty and students, Hannah McBride exhibited her characteristic courage and vulnerability, replying, “What is impolite to discuss at dinner parties? Sex, money, politics, religion? That’s exactly what I want to talk about.”
As the Violence Prevention and Education Coordinator at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, McBride organizes and directs a comprehensive, college-wide program that includes communication development, campus education, employee training, student programming, crisis intervention and victim advocacy. McBride will be bringing her passion and expertise to Northwestern students at the upcoming Ngage session, “Victimized Bodies: Sexual Assault Prevention and Education.”
McBride graduated from NW in 2009 with degrees in theatre and English. Many NW upperclassmen and faculty will fondly remember McBride from her days as resident director of Stegenga Hall from 2012 to 2016. Friend and former colleague Kendall Stanislav, current RD of the apartments, encouraged McBride to apply for her present position at Messiah, for which McBride very grateful.
“When Kendall says jump, I usually say ‘no way,’ but this time I am glad I took his advice,” McBride said.
In keeping with the vulnerability she cultivated as RD of Steggy, McBride hopes to normalize the taboo subject of sexual assault and will focus her Ngage session on the trickiness of consent, social media in our environment and dynamics that perpetuate sexual assault. Throughout her talk, she will cover myths and facts surrounding both survivors and perpetrators of sexual assault; the spectrum of environments, behaviors and responses in which assault can occur; and effective ways of approaching prevention.
When asked why sexual assault remains a taboo subject, especially in many faith-based communities, McBride acknowledged society’s reticence to establish the relevance and importance of difficult conversations.
“We have significant numbers of abuse,” McBride said. “Some of the greatest barriers to getting help are due to layers of shame and stigma and minimal resources dedicated to education and training. This is only one conversation that leads us into God’s call for restorative work, and it happens to be one of the most personal and uncomfortable.”
Despite many factors preventing communities from addressing sexual assault issues, McBride believes individuals are responsible for educating themselves and their neighbors on this essential topic.
“Ignorance to this issue in our communities is not bliss, in my opinion,” McBride said. “Ignorance is setting us up to fail our own friends and colleagues.”
That being said, McBride is under no impression that such preventative conversations will be easy to have in one’s personal life.
“Sometimes it is a struggle to discuss sexual experiences and opinions before a violation has occurred or before a long-term commitment has been made,” McBride said.
In the end, McBride stands firm in her resolve to encourage the pursuit of change through conversations about sexual assault.
“I am convinced,” McBride said, “that we will be better neighbors and friends and partners if we can become more open in how we validate bodies and issues of intimate justice.”
McBride will present her Ngage session at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 22 in the Vogel Community Room. She will also be speaking at 10:05 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 23 in Christ Chapel.