I want to share this video created by students at Emory University as part of Project Unspoken, a summer intern project at Emory University's Office of Health Promotion's Respect Program. The Project Unspoken staff describes this video as "a reaction to the prominent silence surrounding the issues of rape, sexual assault, and relationship violence." As you will see, the video begins by interviewing a series of men that I only assume to be affiliated with Emory either as staff or students. The men are asked, "What do you on a daily basis to avoid rape, sexual assault, or sexual harassment." After a number of men answer with slow, contemplative responses that either end in laughter, or total befuddlement, the interviewer follows up with responses by a series of women. It's not surprising that the women have plenty to say on this subject. Some of them speak about traveling in large groups, watching their drinks, considering their attire based on their location, and general feelings of hyper-vigilance. Others are more specific, recounting situations in which they anticipated potentially violent scenarios, imagined how to use their keys or bodies as weapons, or creating a trail of communication by calling friends or family during travel. The interns at Project Unspoken go on to visually map out various statistics about prevalence of sexual violence for both men and women.
What I really like about this video is the way in which the interviews speak for themselves. The contrast between how women think about safety on a daily, even hourly basis, and the ways men generally don’t consider their personal safety, with regard to sexual violence and harassment, is plainly stated through personal testimony. None of the women shown on tape deny that they take measures to "avoid rape” etc..., although some seem more at ease with their behavior than others. The video illuminates how different people buy in to rape culture, or the societal imbalance placed on women to protect not only their own bodies, but to prevent violence from happening at all. Some women take solace in their “preventative behaviors,” while others acknowledge that these same behaviors may make them “feel safer” rather than be safer. So to, some of the men imply that avoiding sexual harassment is a women’s problem, as one interviewer states, “I don’t have a rape whistle, so I don’t have that option,” while others acknowledge the gendered imbalance by plainly stating that they don’t think about avoiding sexual violence at all.
Although a staggering number of victims of sexual violence on college campuses know their attackers (90%), there is still a powerful cultural burden of avoiding stranger sexual violence in the world. This burden disproportionately affects women’s states of mind and body as they travel and interact with their world, taking all steps deemed possible to prevent a violent act from occurring to them. Even, as one interviewee recalls, may be as extreme as going incognito, dressed in male drag while inside of a moving vehicle. Project hope ends the interview segment by addressing the societal repercussion for not taking all possible steps to prevent ones own assault. One interviewee describes how the fallout can be extreme. She posits, “if we fail… we’re automatically looking to be raped or assaulted, and that’s what should change.”
This video does a great job of raising awareness of the day-to-day self-preservation techniques and learned behaviors many women rely on to cope with either personal experience of violence, or a pervasive cultural suspicion of stranger violence. Project Unspoken will be creating more videos aimed at generating dialogue and awareness of cultural discrepancies in the future. Check out their great work here and support their mission by passing along to your friends and networks.
Written by: Rachel, a CAPS volunteer