Hannah Rudderham
Hannah Rudderham
March 24, 2020

Dissolve: One Woman Show Promotes Being an Active Bystander

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Content warning: this article contains themes of sexual violence and assault.

A night meant to be unforgettable turns into a night she can’t remember—the one-woman show Dissolve tackles the topic of date-rape, a situation that isn’t uncommon in society today. The play covers topics like drug facilitated sexual assault, drink spiking and bystander awareness. 

On Wednesday, Megan Gardiner’s hard-hitting show came to the Fredericton Playhouse with actor Emmelia Gordon performing. Gordon plays 14 characters, using her body language, voice, stage lighting, and music to shift dynamically between characters.

The play, staged by Shameless Hussy, makes up the first act of the show. The second act is a talkback with Gordon and two people from the community who have resources for sexual violence. Fredericton’s performance saw someone from Sexual Violence New Brunswick and a police officer who worked in domestic and family violence. 

The show begins with a girl getting ready for a fun night out, then shifts to the point of view of two bouncers at a club, letting female partygoers in no matter their age. Next, the audience gets the perspective of two dancers making fun of the “messy drunk girl,” and then the next morning comes. The protagonist, the girl who’d been getting ready to go out, doesn’t remember anything from the night before, but knows she had sex with a guy. She talks to a friend who is completely unsupportive, and then is confronted by a neighbour who says the girl was “too loud” the night before. With no one else to look to for support, she goes to the doctor looking for the morning after pill. The doctor hears her story out and though initially brusque, he notices the dilation of her pupils, and realizes that she’s been drugged. The audience then watches two professors giving a lecture about date-rape drugs from a pharmacy professor’s version when the drugs were first invented, to a criminology professor’s version in the present day.

Two of the drugs discussed were Rohypnol and GHB. 

Rohypnol (scientific name: flunitrazepam) will produce a blue colour if mixed into a drink but usually those illegally administering the drug will know to put it in dark colored drinks or blue tropical ones. The effects of the drug may last for 12 hours and kick in within 15 to 20 minutes of consumption.

GHB (scientific name: gamma hydroxybutyrate) is used typically for sexual-enhancing effects, but when used incorrectly, the drug could leave the consumer unconscious. GHB can affect your memory and when combined with alcohol, increases respiratory depression which can be fatal. 

Alcohol itself is often used as a date-rape drug or used in combination with a another drug in order to render the victim unconscious or simply unable to consent.

In Dissolve, the scariest part is that nobody did anything about the attack. The victim felt scared and powerless. “Did you just have too much to drink?” Often, the blame of sexual assault will come back on to the victim because they chose to go out or they chose to consume alcohol. Sexual assault is never the fault of the survivor. It is always the fault of the attacker.

I went into the show not knowing anything about what it was about, but I came out with a new understanding. I wanted to do more research and learn more about protecting myself and others. I also heard suggestions from audience members when they spoke up about personal experiences during the talkback. I learned that it’s not always a stranger and that sexual assault can occur in a relationship.

Being in a relationship does not automatically secure consent. Consent has to be given each and every time, and must be continuous. It can be taken away at any moment, and that is everyone’s right. 

The biggest thing the show stressed was how to be an active bystander. If you see someone who needs help when you’re out, feel responsible to act. Be part of the solution, not a bystander in a sad story. Intervene (while maintaining your safety) and notify the bar staff, as some bar staff may have active bystander training so they can help even further.

Despite not knowing everything, here are some resources found on the UNB website that can help you more than me, a journalist who’s still trying to educate herself: 

Campus Sexual Assault Support Advocates

-       Fredericton UNB campus: csasa@bellaliant.com or 453-4530

-       Saint John UNB campus: csasa@unb.ca or 648-2309

24 Hour Sexual Assault Support Line

-       Fredericton: 506-454-0437

-       Saint John: 506-454-0437

CHIMO Help Line Inc. 

-       Toll-free line: 1-800-667-5005 

UNB Fredericton Services 

-       CC Jones Student Services Centre (2nd floor for Counselling Services): counsel@unb.ca or 506-453-4820

-       CC Jones Student Services Centre (3rd floor for Student Health Centre): shc@unb.ca or 506-453-4837

-       UNB Security: 506-453-4830

Fredericton’s Community Resources 

-       Fredericton City Police: 506-460-2300

-       Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital: 506-452-5400

-       Sexual Violence New Brunswick: 506-454-0460

-       The Chrysalis House: 506-451-4767

-       Women in Transition (Crisis Line): 506-459-2300

Some more tips: Look online for information resources like Sexual Violence New Brunswick, Male Survivor, RAINN, and The Survivor Manual. If you have been sexually assaulted, seeking medical help, despite maybe not having injuries, can be important to assess factors such as STIs or pregnancy. If you go to a hospital, you can ask to be assessed by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) who is specially trained for patients who have been sexually assaulted. A rape kit (a forensic evidence kit) can be administered by the SANE nurse or a doctor and will collect evidence from your sexual assault. This kit collect evidence for if you wish to report your case to police, but the decision to report does not have to be made at the time of requesting a rape kit. The evidence can be held for six months to allow you to make a decision.

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