In January of 2015, Project Consent went under a series of construction to formulate the campaign into something more accessible, more global, and more impactful. Part of our rebranding involved asking ourselves, "What can we do to get our message across?" We knew that we wanted people to connect with Project Consent on a personal note and in order to convey that, we had to demonstrate that the trivialization, sexualization, and normalization of sexual assault wasn't just something that hurt a selective group of people. Rape culture is an environment that hurts everyone and the longer that we delay to expose that, the more we contribute to the issue.
During winter break, we asked a group of students (ages ranging from 17 to 20) if they would like to volunteer themselves for a video campaign. The layout of Seconds with Students was pretty straightforward: we would ask them a series of questions about the culture around sexual assault and they would answer honesty. They were given a week to think through the questions before sharing them on camera. For many, it was their first time being asked these sort of questions. While some of them might have been more aware about the issues regarding sexual assault, some of them had to think long and hard about the world that they were living in. By the end of the shooting period, everyone gave us their definite opinion about the microaggressions that make up our society's treatment of sexual assault.
Q: What do you think of the idea that rape culture tells someone that just because they drink, they are less of a person and deserve to be assaulted?
Erin: I don't think someone is less of a person because of their decision to drink or not. I don't think their assault is less of an assault because of their intoxication level at the time. I mean, obviously alcohol impairs someone's judgment and in turn, makes that person more vulnerable. But bystanders should recognize that person's state of inebriation and probably their ability to consent as well. If someone's drunk, their judgment is impaired. There's been many cases in which people don't really understand that.
Q: How do you feel about a majority of universities allowing known rapists to stay on campus?
Rachael: As a college freshman, I am deeply sadden and betrayed by universities allowing known rapists to stay on campus. Throughout the semester, I was promised the university put my safety beyond everything else. However, I am astounded that these universities can proclaim that they put a student's safety above all else when they allow known rapists to walk amongst us. I don't think this just impacts the student body's comfort. I think it completely obliterates it.
Q: Were you ever told that sexual assault happens because someone was asking for it?
Jose: I remember a time, back in middle school, when we were doing current events and I did one over some guy who claimed that the [victim] was wanting it because she had a short skirt. For most of my lifetime, I've just assumed that because you were wearing something very provocative, you wanted to have those sexual encounters with people. Looking back on it, that's how I thought of rape culture. I'm more aware now that it doesn't matter what you were doing or what you were wearing.
To hear all the responses, please watch the whole video.
When asked about how they feel about rape culture now, or if working with Project Consent has changed any of their opinions, the response was uplifting. Jose Alaras, a senior at Washburn Rural High School, stated, "Being part of the video really solidified my view not only of how horrendous current rape culture is, but that there are so many simple things people can do to spread awareness. Seeing a group of people working together for a common goal truly is inspiring and I am just happy I could be a part of something so meaningful."
Erin MacAdam, a fellow classmate, seconded the sentiment. "Working with Project Consent on the videos has reminded me how many good people are out there despite this massive, horrid culture we're surrounded by, and that for every person who has assaulted someone, there's someone good willing to stand up for the assaulted." Project Consent couldn't agree more.
We would like to take this time and thank all the participants of the video for engaging with their community and working with us to raise awareness about sexual assault.