Rape victims are not asking for it

It’s not in the way you dance, the way you dress, or the way you act – you’re never asking to be sexually assaulted.

project not asking for it

That’s the message of Project Not Asking For It, which is meant to counteract our typical cultural response to sexual violence victims. The project is a grassroots effort which asks students to organize an event on their campus, put together a music video featuring multiple students dancing, and upload it to Vimeo.

Victim blaming hasn’t gone away: it’s just shifting into more subtle territory. Recent studies on attitudes regarding sexual violence have shown that even when people explicitly say that sexual violence is never the fault of the victim, their other responses in the same survey suggest otherwise. We’ve gone from “She shouldn’t have been dressed that way” to “Women who dress provocatively might send a mixed message.” Although not as direct, these messages are just as damaging.

Project Not Asking For It focuses on victim blaming on college campuses, but can certainly be applied more broadly. Campus sexual violence has gotten a lot of attention with the recent release of a report from the White House regarding campus sexual violence prevention and response.

The project’s founder and spokesperson, Sally Rappaport had this to say when I reached her via email this week:

“The ‘sexual assault epidemic’ on college campuses is really at the forefront right now, and this provides a wonderful opportunity for students to raise their voices and be heard.

“Much too often, victims of sexual assault don’t even know that they are victims–they just live haunted by a particular, traumatic experience that society has taught them to believe was probably their fault, because of the clothes they were wearing, the way they were dancing, the amount of alcohol they drank, etc…. Project Not Asking For It gives students the chance to show victims that they are not alone, that they can have a voice, and most importantly that it is never their fault.”

The project initially faced issues with posting to Facebook, which deleted information about events at Columbia and Stanford, and blocked the posting of a video from Wesleyan University. Since then, most issues with Facebook have been resolved. When asked about the Facebook issues, Rappaport said, “We’re not sure if the ban was imposed by Facebook or by an individual, but either way it is very disconcerting,” especially given that none of the videos contained nudity or any content that might be considered “inappropriate” or “unsafe.”

“What is unsafe,” Rappaport pointed out, “is preventing important messages like these (from) spreading through the medium of Facebook,” especially as these issues and beliefs are so prevalent in our culture.

To see videos from different college campuses, click the links below.

Wesleyan University

Connecticut College

Vassar College

Georgetown University

BDN Maine Focus

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