Okay, so as it states in the title this is kind of going to be a rant. I didn’t expect to react so strongly to something seemingly so small but I have and it needs to be spoken about.
The triggering situation?
A video being made by a club that I am part of in regards to sexual violence on university campuses.
There were ten of us standing in a line with a certain number of people stepping forward to visually represent each statistic. I get it gives a shocking visual of what that statistic looks like but the stepping forward was randomly assigned to fill the number or create a certain aesthetic for the camera; it was not in regards to lived experience.
Now I understand that not everyone wants to share their story, maybe they don’t want certain people to know, or just not at that place yet but to make a video involving some people that you know are affected by the issue and still randomly assign based on numerical values is insensitive. At least give the option for those affected to have some control e.g. we are aware that these statistics may be relevant to some of you so if you want to step forward for specific ones let us know and we will fill in the gaps.
Now I have already mentioned in this blog that I have experienced sexual assault whilst at university…my point? Well… I was chosen to step forward for 70% of female students and graduates have experienced Sexual Violence: Fine. I then had to step back for a statistic regarding sexual harassment: Fine, didn’t bother me. I then had to step back for 48% had experienced Sexual Assault: Not Okay.
Why was it not okay? Because I was lying. Because it was true for me and I wasn’t being allowed to express that. It felt like a punch in the stomach. I felt like a fraud, undoing everything I had been through the last few years. I know people that might view the video would potentially be aware of my situation and I couldn’t allow for it to suddenly all seem like a lie when it wasn’t. I had to say something. I had to ask if I could step forward for the ones that resonated with me.
I know the video wasn’t about me or my experience but at the same time I couldn’t ignore my experience. I couldn’t stand there and pretend something hadn’t happened to me. It is more than a statistic; it is my reality.
Now this video is just one part of a whole campaign being run by some members of this society so I offered to lend my voice to any other parts of the campaign if relevant. I said I’d be happy to talk about the issue of reporting and why it’s so difficult to come forward and give information of certain charity services I have used. I mentioned this in hopes that if it was relevant I would be able to validate other people’s experiences and decisions surrounding whether to report or not, and to encourage others to seek help by explaining exactly how a service can help, the type of support they offer and what it is like/what to expect.
I was met with a response that seemed slightly condescending. They explained that they wanted to focus on humanising statistics and get people to understand the severity of the issue. They will also be holding a panel about what the uni/SU are doing to combat this and said that I would be welcome to attend and be part of the discussion after they have asked their questions. I am aware of exactly what the university are doing because I have had meetings with them myself, have spoken to several staff/su members and written my own letter to the university (albeit anonymously). I have been involved in this need for change.
They also stated that there were no plans for personal testimonies as they don’t want to trigger anyone who may not have been able to seek help and that they want to demonstrate that a fact on paper is actually a real person. However, I feel their approach contradicts their aim. If a fact on paper is a real person then why not find real people or at least explain the aim and get their involvement/opinions? Using a human body to represent a statistic does not show it is a real person- it is just another way of representing that statistic. How can it be confirmed to be real if there is no real voice?
Why not gather a consenting group, read out a statistic and then ask who in that room is affected by it? What is the representation in that room?
If its 70% of a group of students note it as equivalent to:
Out of a squad of 14 in Netball around 9 or 10 will be affected.
Or, that’s equivalent to 14 students in your seminar of 20.
And what about hearing peoples’ voices? What about having actual people affected say ‘I am more than a statistic, I am a real person who’s had a real experience’ or ‘I am more than a statistic, I am your teammate/classmate/buddy/friend/neighbour’
Why have females representing males? Why have cis females representing those that are non-binary?
Am I wrong to have a problem with this? Am I wrong to feel hurt by this? That by trying to do good and raise awareness I feel like there is a slight lack of awareness of how to handle such information? That it partly feels insensitive?
I don’t fully understand why I’ve had this reaction, but at the same time I do. I know this probably doesn’t make sense but what are your thoughts?
Ps. These statistics came from the campaign and research of #RevoltSexualAssault