Feature: Women's group 'Roars' against sexual assault

Erica Thompson
Founder Mindy McFann (bottom left) and members of Hear Jane Roar

Since the presidential election, women have been spearheading efforts to express their concerns about offensive language and potentially oppressive policies coming from government officials. Specifically in Columbus, women have filled buses with activists who protested in Washington, D.C.; led marches in the streets and rallies in parks; and even designed T-shirts for protesters demanding answers from local Congressmen.

Joining that list is Mindy Mcfann, who founded Hear Jane Roar, a group providing a platform for women to share their stories online and at public events. Dismayed by President Trump's remarks about grabbing women's genitals — which surfaced during the election — and a general feeling that women's voices had been lost, Mcfann gathered a group of women in her living room on November 18 to start a dialogue.

“The only thing I knew we could do to fight … was to tell the truth [and] keep telling our stories,” Mcfann said at an early-May interview at Stone Village Church, where a new “Mic Night” will take place on Thursday, May 25. “And then if enough of us got together and told the truth, that eventually it would have to be believed.”

And so Mcfann set up a GoFundMe Page last December and ultimately raised about $1,200 to help create hearjaneroar.org, which contains women's stories in audio, visual and written form. The website is open for public submissions.

Through this process, Mcfann has heard from many women opening up about sexual assault, with some only recently realizing they'd been victimized at some point in their lives.

“We've all learned to just push down harm to us and … not make it a big deal,” Mcfann said. “But when you see a woman stand up and blurt out the truth, it makes you go, ‘God, that happened to me and it was devastating.'”

“It might seem small to just tell your story,” said Aimee White, a Hear Jane Roar member. “But the more people who can say, ‘Yeah, that happened to me, too, and that's not OK,' and the more young women who can hear these stories from older women … then younger women know that that's really not something [they] should ever tolerate.”

The group currently has over 100 members who interact daily via a Facebook group, sharing thoughtful questions, news or humorous posts. Mcfann stresses that anyone is welcome to join,including men and people of all political affiliations.

“This is not an anti-Republican movement or a pro-Democrat movement. This is a pro-woman movement,” Mcfann said. “Just as many Republican women have been marginalized and abused and hurt. … So we embrace them with all our hearts to come in and share their stories.”

Since January, Hear Jane Roar has hosted two mic nights, where a predetermined group of women share their stories.

“One thing I tell them is we are not here to be entertaining and we are not here to make people comfortable,” Mcfann said. “We're just here to tell the truth.”

At the May 25 event, one woman will speak about alcohol addiction, and another will share her struggle with OCD and an eating disorder. And Claudia Coleman will talk about her experience as a woman in corporate America.

“I was really disheartened,” Coleman said of her experience on election night, which initially started as a celebration. “[My husband] wrote this Facebook post about how excited he was [and] what it was going to mean to watch a woman become president. … And one of the things he said was, ‘[What it means] for my wife, who can run a hospital someday if she wants to.'”

“After the election, for the first time in my life I thought, ‘Maybe I can't do that,'” Coleman continued. “Maybe my career is limited because I'm a woman.”

“What I hope comes from these stories is that if another woman finds herself in the same situation, she has a resource,” White said. “You go into a situation with a little more power than someone before you [who] went into that situation.”

Going forward, Hear Jane Roar may begin taking more direct political action, Mcfann said.

“Tentatively, what we're talking about is moving this into an organized protest standing up to violence against women,” she said, noting a September target date for the event. “We really want it to stop — all of it. Until people believe us [and] until people know … it's happening to your wife, your mother [and] your daughter, we'll keep standing up in whatever form we can.”

And if that means the engagement just stays within Hear Jane Roar, Mcfann is fine with that.

“If that is all we ever accomplish … that we came together and we were loving and kind to each other and heard each other's stories, that would be enough,” she said. “But we would like to change the planet.”

“Jane's Mic Night”

Stone Village Church

7 p.m. Thursday, May 25

139 E. Second Ave., Short North