No matter what she's wearing, where she's walking late at night, or how much she's flirting, no woman is ever "asking for it" when it comes to rape. Still, the phrase is heard far too often, and Wesleyan University sophomore Sally Rappaport wanted to do something about it. She started Project Not Asking For It to raise awareness of the fact that, regardless of attire, inebriation, or topic of conversation, no one ever deserves to be sexually assaulted.
Inspired by the SlutWalk that started in Toronto in 2011, a feminist action movement where participants protested against the idea that women's behavior or clothing make them viable targets for assault, Rappaport encouraged classmates to film or photograph themselves wearing anything they wanted to highlight that there is absolutely no excuse for harassment, assault, or unwanted commentary.
With Lauryn Hill's "Doo Wop (That Thing)" playing in the background, some female students wear shirts exposing their midriffs and others (both male and female) dance in a provocative manner. Rappaport posted the video on the group's Facebook page last month in hopes that it would go viral.
Five other schools, including Stanford University, Georgetown University, Columbia University, Vassar College, and Connecticut College have since created similar videos, while the Claremont Colleges are in the midst of joining in. Seven schools — including Rhode Island School of Design, George Washington University, New York University, University of Kansas, Brown University, Yale University and University of Wisconsin–Madison — plan to take part this fall.
Victim blaming is far too common, Rappaport told Bustle. “I just have so many friends that have been victims of [sexual assault] and the excuse that the perpetrators use, such as ‘well you were wearing a bikini so that’s why I slapped your butt. You were pretty much asking for it,’" she says. "It's like, OK but maybe we were at a pool party. And then you hear excuses like, ‘you were dancing like that.’”
Of course sexual assault on college campuses is nothing new, though the issue has picked up particular steam in the past few months. In May, the White House released new guidelines to combat rape and sexual assault on college campuses, while Amherst banned Greek life due to the frequency of violent hazing and sexual abuse. The month prior, a Harvard student's letter went viral after she called out the university on their outdated sexual assault policy.
Spreading the message won’t stop here. Currently in the works, the organizers are brainstorming different strategies and topics to focus on. A tentative plan is to have a representative from each school begin a club to strategize how to tackle these issues and spread even more awareness on their campus.
“I'm now starting to think about how I want to expand the project," Rappaport told Bustle. “I want to focus more on enthusiastic consent, cat calling, grinding at parties.”