By Asiya Fricke
Lights are dimmed, the crowd is hushed, and a spotlight shines down. Brady Root enters the circle of light. With her bright hair and commanding presence, she easily captures the audience’s attention. To many, she seems familiar, though they may not know her name. As part of the new student orientation, Root is often one of the first people students meet.
Root is also a Rutgers University alumna twice over, having earned her BS and then her MSW. Now, she works as the Prevention Education Coordinator for the Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance (VPVA). In addition, she has taken the stage many times as part of the Students Challenging Realities and Educating Against Myths Theater program (SCREAM).
At every new student orientation, a SCREAM Theater performance is given to educate the incoming class about sexual assault. Through out the year, SCREAM Theater also educates students about interpersonal violence, domestic and dating violence, stalking, and bullying.
Root has been involved in SCREAM Theater since she was a first year student at Rutgers. “I saw a performance at my first year orientation. I was amazed that people were talking to us about this stuff because in high school, nobody talked about these issues. I was like 'wow, this is what college is like; they actually speak to you about real things.'”
After earning her undergraduate degree, Root worked at VPVA through AmeriCorps. At the end of the two years, she decided to get her MSW degree because of the programming at the Center on Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC), which Root knew had a world-renowned reputation.
Since then, Root has made it her personal mission to educate others on interpersonal violence prevention, taking the Rutgers SCREAM Theater to conferences and colleges around the country including University of Florida, Hunter College, Seton Hall, and many more.
Her empathy for others can be traced back to her childhood. “My mom is half Cherokee, so she raised us with a respect for land, animals, and people," explains Root. "She was also passionate about animal rescue, which is my other love. There was always an intensity in our home about how you treat others and the world."
In middle school, Root would often sit with her peers who were alone because she “tried to put herself in other people’s shoes and think about how they felt.” Now, when she talks to middle school students about bullying and bystander intervention she uses that example to encourage them not turn a blind eye.
Root hopes to see the creation of similar programs using the same methods as SCREAM Theater for prevention education. "I know we can't fix everything during a 60 minute performance, but if we can get the audience passionate and engaged with these issues, then we've taken the first step toward action and change."
Along with her work for VPVA and SCREAM Theater, Root directs yearly performances of The Vagina Monologues, participates in every Take Back the Night march, does direct service with survivors, is a part-time lecturer, and serves as a University Liaison to the LGBTQ community at Rutgers.
With all of these responsibilities she gladly takes on, her own self-care comes from animal rescue. "I get personal satisfaction in knowing animals are safe and have a home."
In the future, she hopes to integrate these two parts of her life. "I'd like to create a program that works directly with animals and trauma survivors. There's a lot of research about how animals can help people heal emotionally. This is especially true for children who suffered from abuse. I'd love to have the kids involved in the animal rescue process to see that animals experience trauma too, and they can go through the healing process together."
Root has a simple mantra that she strives to achieve on a daily basis. "You should be able to go to sleep at night feeling good about who you are and what you’ve accomplished that day."
SCREAM students performing.