Campus rape’s presence in the media has had a bit of rollercoaster ride despite its very serious content matter. Rolling Stone’s, “A Rape on Campus” which featured discrediting false information on University of Virginia’s campus and Columbia student’s powerful mattress carrying, Rape Survivor Project exposed two very different sides to the delicate subject matter in news form. In the entertainment world however, campus sexual assault has seen little to no inclusion, until recently.
This year, two 2015 Sundance Film Festival projects dealt with campus rape: Kirby Dick’s The Hunting Ground and Morris May and Rose Troche’s interactive Perspective. Additionally, a perhaps less expected show hosted the idea of campus rape as ABC Family’s “Switched at Birth” discussed the issue starting with, “At the First Clear Word”, the first in a two-part rape storyline.
The series creator, Lizzy Weiss decided to tackle the topic as a way to join the national conversation currently being had. And although “Switched at Birth” goes might surprisingly go after this topic, the show has never shied away from other subjects such as race and disabilities.
The story-arch features Bay (Vanessa Marano), a main character, following the events during and immediately after the morning upon waking up next to her naked boyfriend, Tank (Max Adler). Bay has little to no memory from the night before and must come to terms with the situation at hand. She feels guilt for possibly cheating on Tank, but mostly distraught over the fact that she might have not agreed to whatever might have happened the night before. The pressure for her to react conforming to certain social constructs will be featured in next week’s episode as an investigation further delves into the alleged rape.
These repercussions are all too real, and this is one of the first times a television show has dealt with the topic in such a manner.
Weiss’s decision to use Tank, a fan-favorite character as the criminal, was another great and ultra-realistic idea. Giving Tank’s character a voice on the matter, gives the show more depth and allows for more conversations to be had. The dynamic creates an atmosphere where the idea that rape is more often the result of those making bad decisions rather than those who one society tells you to normally avoid.
Another reason why other television shows aren’t discussing campus rape and others feature main characters that are rapists (*cough* HBO *cough*), is that there aren’t actually many programs that do emphasize young female characters and these sort of volatile circumstances.
As the Washington Post reported not long ago, the numbers for campus rape are rising and such topic is what people should and need to be informed about. Why shouldn’t the entertainment world be discussing it? It takes shows like “Switched at Birth” to make that leap and open up communication on a wider scale with an age group that needs it most.