‘Define the Line’: CSU alumnae create comic to combat sexual harassment at work

Miranda Moses

Human Resources consultants and business partners Nikki Larchar and Tina Todd are collaborating with artist Moriah Hummer to create Define the Line, a comic book resource to combat sexual harassment in the workplace. Larchar and Todd will be featured in the comic as HR gurus that help people navigate tough situations. Illustration courtesy of Moriah Hummer

Human Resources consulting firm simplyHR serves small businesses, but they seek to create a huge impact.

In the wake of the impactful #metoo and Times Up! movements that are facilitating conversation about the devastatingly common everyday prevalence of sexual assault, Colorado State University alumnae and co-founders of of simplyHR Tina Todd and Nikki Larchar are making waves to revolutionize sexual harassment education inside and outside the workplace. Their project, entitled Define the Line, is a comic book that aims at combating typical HR trainings’ gap in empowering workers to advocate for themselves by depicting realistic scenarios that encourage bystander intervention and how powerful those who experience harassment can be. 

Ad

“I am really excited because we are going to be empowering people to take charge and to really feel like, ‘I can actually say something in this moment,'” Larcher said. “That is something that is not going to happen overnight, but I think it is those small steps.”

Sexual harassment is a prohibited type of gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The simplyHR business partners not only wanted an innovative, fresh new way to implement sexual assault education into business, but their goal is to produce a resource that can be easily and continuously accessible, a characteristic unlike previous HR resources that the two have personally experienced within in their own lives. HR training and resources around sexual harassment, the partners say, tends to be impersonal and few and far between.

“I think people avoid having these conversations because it is uncomfortable,” Todd said. “And although it is slightly uncomfortable to go through these different scenarios (within the comic), we hope that it will open up some doors into some more comfortable, frequent conversations so that people can really advocate for each other and themselves.”

Todd and Larcher’s original ideas for the project surrounded creating a coloring book, but after brainstorming with members of the Fort Collins community and conducting research on retentive training materials, the company unanimously settled on the comic book medium.

The first finished page of “Define the Line” is shown in the Simply HR office. “Define the Line” is a comic book outlining workplace sexual harrassment training created by three CSU alumna. (Ashley Potts | Collegian)

“It turns out that graphic novels and comic books are actually really awesome training tools in that people remember the information verbatim at a really high percentage,” Larchar said. “There is also a high emotional connection with something that is tangible that they can hold and read. When we started doing more research is became really clear that it was not only fun and different but could actually be really powerful and effective as a training tool.”

The HR consulting firm hopes to produce multiple volumes of the comic book to encompass the multitude of various situations one might encounter in terms of sexual harassment by representing different workplaces and environments as well as various workplace relationships. To produce the most authentic and therefore the most helpful project possible, Todd and Larchar have incorporated input from the community by providing people with an opportunity to share their stories anonymously to be real-life, empowering scenarios within the book. 

“There is an amazing community of people that are supporting this project,” said Larcher. “We have heard from people that we know, people that we have met one time, and they are all offering to say, ‘Hey, what can I do to help this project?’ So, I think the community that is being built around it just feels so cool, and it is so amazing having so many people that are offering their help or giving us suggestions and feedback, which has been so vital for how we have grown the project so far.”

The company has partnered with the Fort Collins’ Sexual Assault Victim Advocate Center so that individuals who are sharing their stories to be published have resources and additional support when retelling their difficult and traumatic experiences. 

Giving victims or bystanders more power in a sexual harassment scenario made me really excited. We need to do whatever we can to empower those people and change the negative culture we have surrounding victims of sexual harassment.” -Moriah Hummer, Define the Line artist and CSU alumna

“We’re excited to work with SAVA, too, because we can tell a story from the HR perspective, and what the clients concerns are, and the workplace angles and things like that,” Todd said. “But then to be able to have them look at it too, from a victim’s advocacy perspective, is huge, and I feel like it will really benefit the whole story and how to round it out.” 

During multiple instances of collaboration and conversation with members of the local community, artist Moriah Hummer’s name was repeatedly suggested to simplyHR as a key component that would make the project come to life. Larcher said she remembered seeing Hummer’s work, another CSU alumna, hanging in the Lory Student Center, and she found her artistic style impactful and inclusive. 

Ad

The first page of simply HR’s Define the Line project seeks to depict realistic scenarios that one may experience around sexual harassment in the workplace. The company
is currently collaborating with artist and Colorado State University alumna Moriah Hummer to make the project come to life. Illustration courtesy of Moriah Hummer

“When we saw her artwork, both Tina and I just fell in love with how she portrays characters and the diversity that she is able to portray in her own comic books,” said Larcher. “We thought that was super important for this project.”

Not only did Hummer’s artistic talent indicate to Todd and Larcher that she was the ideal candidate to illustrate Define the Line, but also the comic book artist’s enthusiasm for the cause. According to Todd, Moriah was eager from their first meeting to work with the team, and a huge component of why they chose to hire her was her passion surrounding the company’s mission towards nondiscriminatory safety.

“Giving victims or bystanders more power in a sexual harassment scenario made me really excited,” Hummer said. “We need to do whatever we can to empower those people and change the negative culture we have surrounding victims of sexual harassment.”

Hummer said for every one person who comes forward about their experience, there is an onslaught of people trying to tear them down.

“It’s hard for victims to come forward in a culture that isn’t supportive,” Hummer said. “That’s why it’s important to help their voices be louder, more understood, or just help shut these situations down as soon as they come up.”

Those who want to contribute their stories to define the line can do so at their website, simplyHRpartners.com/definetheline. Submissions can be anonymous. The company’s Kickstarter page will also open on April 12 and will help the company print and distribute the comics.
 

“We are one of many HR’s trying to make a difference,” said Todd.

Collegian reporter Miranda Moses can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @mirandasrad.