[*Check out our interview below with 24-year old, Matt Scott, an inspirational advocate against sexual violence who is making his voice heard.]
SB: What is your personal definition of sexual violence, and the work that you do?
Matt: Sexual violence is any form of a sexual act without consent, which is key because consent is the presence of an affirmative, enthusiastic, non-coercive "yes". One example I love explaining this is this video viewing consent through the lens of one friend offering another a cup of tea. The work I do with sexual violence education is focused on painting a picture of the importance of consent for whoever I'm having a conversation with so they understand the importance of consent and healthy relationships and so they can be better advocates for those who identify as survivors of sexual violence.
These survivors might be men or women who have experienced more physically violent instances like rape or sexual assault or more socially/emotionally violent instances like catcalling, stalking, intimate partner violence (in relationships, which can also be physically violent) and a range of other behaviors.
SB: What sparked your interest in advocating against sexual assault?/ What got you started?
Matt: It all started in college with a roommate my freshman year at [George Washington University]. One of my roommates was involved in GW Students Against Sexual Assault, just a semester or two after it was founded. I thought it was cool and, ultimately, when he extended the invite to attend their event "Take Back the Night", I left my residence hall room immediately, hopped on the bus to the other campus and that's where it all begin. I was involved from then on because its importance resonated with me.
SB: Should someone want to get involved with advocating against sexual assault, how do you suggest they get started?
Matt: Google and social media are a will-be advocate's best friends! To get started, look for other individuals or organizations (particularly at your school or in your community) who are also advocating against sexual assault and join them in the effort. It all starts with showing up and that is a HUGE step. If you can't find other organizations or individuals, use social media to put the word out there to see if others are interested in joining you. When all else fails, reach out to other advocates you admire to see how they got started and involved. People in this community of advocates are so willing to collaborate and are your best resource.
SB: If you could give one piece of advice to anyone who's been through sexual violence, what would that be?
Matt: Don't go to that dark place alone. You're not alone. There are so many phenomenal people who care about you and your physical, social, emotional, and mental health, whether they know you or not. There are so many people who have experienced their own low points and there are survivors everywhere. In 2015, when the Association of American Universities surveyed 150,000 college students, 1 in 5 women and about 1 in 20 men reported having experienced sexual assault. You're not alone and there will always be someone who can give you the support you need and deserve. The first person you go to won't always be the best (sometimes, while they mean well, parents, friends, teachers, administrators, law enforcement, and others don't always know the best way to help you and support you). There are so many people, including me, who are here for you and here to assist however you need.
SB: Otherwise, if you could give our audience only one fact about sexual violence, what would that be?
Matt: Only about 10% of occurrences of sexual violence happen between strangers. In other words, about 90% of survivors of sexual assault or rape know the perpetrator– a friend, best friend, partner (boyfriend, girlfriend, etc), classmate, coworker, or someone you've met through your friend group. What people often call the "stranger in the bushes" scenario is a common misconception and some people think is how most acts of sexual violence occur and that isn't the case, as this statistic illustrates. Sexual violence can occur within friend groups and that can be jarring for people to accept (and might lead to people questioning the credibility of the survivor) so I want people to know that it is a reality.
SB: Does advocating in this field lead you to being emotional during any time(s)/situation(s) and/or personally connecting with those you advocate for/hear stories about?
Matt: Absolutely. One concept that I learned about was this idea of being a "secondary survivor". A secondary survivor is someone who did not have an assault committed against them (at least in this context) but someone who is a support system for the survivor or who may experience emotions similar to that of a survivor because it can be tough taking on the emotions of survivors and being a support system. One good resource discussing this is the As One Project, co-founded by my former Students Against Sexual Assault advisor, Angela Esquivel. The reality of secondary survivorship is why self-care is so, so important. Self-care means doing the things that you love that calm you down, remove the tension from your shoulders, and make you feel good.
SB: Beyond your work against sexual violence, what else do you find yourself passionate about? Tell us about your self-care.
Matt: I'm passionate about social change. That's one reason I love Superbands because, as Lady Gaga recently showed beautifully at the Oscars 2016, Superbands (and exceptional, brave advocates like her) save fans. My primary work is in digital marketing, combining my background in business and marketing with a love for creative writing and the person-to-person connectedness that the digital space creates. Now, I'm working with SecondMuse, an innovation agency focused on addressing the world's biggest social and environmental challenges, applying my love of marketing and writing. Beyond loving what I do for work, personally, I enjoy creating things and experiencing life with other people, whether friends, family or mentors.
A good conversation is a huge breath of fresh air. It's often calming, funny, and, especially when you're laughing, it can release any stress. I love writing, particularly poetry writing whenever something comes to mind. Also, I'm a fan of cute, inspiring, or thought-provoking Youtube videos. Beyond that, I live in Washington, DC, where I have the opportunity to explore history on a daily basis and, if I'm not in DC, I hope I'm being a tourist somewhere, looking at life with wide eyes everywhere. There's so much to do and so much to see!
SB: How can our readers connect with you?
Matt: There are a number of options for connecting with me but social media is probably the best way. I'm on Twitter at @MattScottGW or, if you find me on Facebook or LinkedIn, shoot me a message and we can talk. If all else fails, I'd encourage readers / friends of Superbands to get in touch with Superbands so we can be connected by email!
ABOUT MATT SCOTT
Matt Scott is the former President of GW Students Against Sexual Assault and a digital storyteller, utilizing social media for social change as a digital strategist with SecondMuse and brand ambassador for VoiceLots, a social media for social change app. An avid sexual violence peer educator, Matt has been featured in Cosmopolitan, on PBS, in The Washington Post, and on NPR's Tell Me More with Michel Martin.