By: Lindsay Stumpf*
For Scholars Day, I presented a Public Service Announcement that was created in my Honors Sex and Culture class in Fall 2012, taught by Dr. Barbara LeSavoy. This was a group project that I created with three other students in the class. Our focus was rape and sexual assault on college campuses, with a particular focus on shifting the dialogue from “victim blaming” to “perpetrator blaming.”
For this project, we created visual representation of our focus. So we decided to make a video. In the video we departed from the traditional route of warning people how to protect themselves or offering resources to victims, but instead, in effect, directly addressed the “perpetrator” of the sexual assault. In doing this, we both made the audience contrast this experience to other PSA’s they may have seen in the past, as well as making them aware of what PSA’s about this issue would look like if they truly focused on the crime and not victims and perceptions surrounding their roles in the crimes committed against them.
A large part of our research explored preexisting laws about rape and sexual assault as well as campus policies concerning these crimes. We also briefly examined the similarities and differences in culture surrounding sexual assault in Russia and the United States, because our class was partnered with a class in Novgorod, Russia. Not only do legal definitions of rape differ in each country, but the attitudes about how prevalent or likely rape is to happen are a lot different in Russia than in the United States as well. We posted a brief survey on the classroom blog, and students from Russia were far less likely to think rape could happen on their campus, or to know anyone to whom it had happened.
Particularly in the light of the Steubenville case and others like it broadcasted nationwide, it is very sad to see that in our culture people still blame, question, and discredit victims of sexual assault rather than help, support, or seek justice for them. Our major message that we wanted to share with the audience is that the dialogue about sexual assault in our country focuses on the wrong issues and should be changed.
With the PSA, we emphasized myths about sexual assault that are still perpetuated, such as ideas about who the perpetrators of rape are, what defines consent, and whether or not being drunk, flirtatious, romantically involved, or wearing certain outfits changes the definition of rape. Overall, our PSA was designed to highlight cultural context, harmful rhetoric, and ultimately, reeducate the audience by offering an alternative framework for thinking about rape and sexual assault on college campuses.
Check out the PSA video here!