No one is ever asking to be assaulted, regardless of what they are wearing, drinking, doing or saying — this concept is the inspiration behind “Project Not Asking For It,” a movement currently spreading awareness at Simpson College.
The movement started at Wesleyan University, where student Sally Rappaport created a video of students dancing. The project is intended to express that no one ever asks for unwanted commentary, name-calling, touching, harassment, assault or rape.
Several other colleges and universities have since created similar videos. Lauren Myers, sophomore Sexual Assault Response Advocates (SARA) member, heard about the project and decided to get Simpson involved.
“Victim blaming is too common,” she said. “This project is doing something about that, which inspired me to follow suit by hosting it on our campus.”
Myers, along with sophomore Walker Mask, who serves as the project’s videographer, and fellow SARA member Annie Collins, junior, have been planning the project since the beginning of spring semester. They are currently filming and hope to have the project completed by the middle of April.
They are also looking for student organizations and groups of friends who are interested in getting involved and participating. According to Collins, they want to show the campus as a whole stands behind the project.
“It can be intimidating to be asked to dance for a video,” Collins said. “We are trying to use strength in numbers. It is a big cause and doesn’t take a lot of time to be a part of.”
Myers said the video would include clips of faculty, staff and students dancing in a variety of locations on Simpson’s campus. It is meant to show the various ways the community is being educated and assisted in regards to sexual assault.
According to the project’s Facebook page, the movement aims to spread awareness that no one is ever asking for assault while supporting victims and trying to end victim blaming.
It does this by stating in the video that victims are never to blame for their assaults. It does not matter whether they were inebriated, dancing provocatively or wearing revealing clothing. There is no excuse for a perpetrator to harass or assault another person.
Collins said, “When people say ‘they were asking for it’ and question a victim, that puts the blame on the victim. I want to raise awareness about victim shaming and victim blaming, and this project brings to sight that society is questioning the wrong person.”
Georgetown University’s video states 1 in 4 women and 1 in 33 men on college campuses across the United States are sexually assaulted. In many cases, victims are blamed for being too intoxicated, wearing revealing clothing or acting as though they were giving consent.
Myers said, “The numbers of statistics we hear about sexual violence is stunning. We need to remember these are real people we are talking about, not numbers.”
Ellie Olson, director of counseling services and SARA advisor, said the idea of ‘asking for it’ is a common belief. Simpson is not immune to thinking this way and the project will educate students about the stigma.
“What we know about education is that it takes multiple exposures for lessons to be made,” Olson said. “This project is another way to educate people about these issues and spread awareness in a lighthearted manner.”
According to Olson, the idea that victims were ‘asking for it’ stems from a need to feel safe and in control. By thinking a person is assaulted for specific reasons, or that assault victims fit a specific persona, others can act or dress differently and be safe from assault. Olson said this is not true.
“You can never drink, wear the least revealing clothing, be committed to abstinence and you can still be assaulted, “ Olson said. “None of those things protect you from assault.”
SARA, the group supporting the video, is a student-run Simpson organization providing advocacy services to anyone who needs support or assistance due to sexual assault. The Simpson website states the group aims to create greater awareness about assault.
After being shown publicly on campus, the video project will be used as a teaching tool for SARA members and will hopefully be sustained for a long time.
Collins said the project is important to SARA because it educates the student-body and also promotes the organization.
“We are more than a phone number you can call,” she said. “We are a group of students raising awareness and making a positive change for students on campus.”
If a student needs to talk to a SARA member about sexual assault, they can call or text their hotline, (515) 330-6392, and receive immediate support. In addition, any students interested in joining the movement can contact Annie Collins or Lauren Myers by email.
“No one ever wants to be raped. No one wants be assaulted. No one is ever asking for it,“ Collins said.