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Designs combat sexual assault

Emily McConville | Thursday, December 5, 2013

According to the University’s Committee on Sexual Assault Prevention (CSAP), the majority of sexual assaults on college campuses involve alcohol. Senior design students Laurel Komos and Mia Swift decided to raise awareness of the link between sexual assault and alcohol in a creative way.

For the first part of their campaign, “Proof of Consent or it’s 100% No,” they designed a tag, one side displaying a parodied image of an alcohol brand’s signature container and the other a message about obtaining consent, and tied them around alcohol bottles at Belmont Beverages in South Bend.

“We did it the Friday before the [Brigham Young] game, so it was going to be a big weekend for people buying alcohol for tailgates, etc.,” Komos said. “So if you wanted to go buy a bottle of Malibu, you had this note and this message that hopefully got people to go to our Tumblr page [http://proofofconsent.tumblr.com] and interact.”

The project is part of Design for Social Good: Affecting Positive Change, an elective where students learn about the social model of design, or designing for a good cause, Robert Sedlack, professor of visual communication and design and instructor for the course said. In addition to designing projects for charities, non-profits and new businesses, class members create social awareness campaigns centering on a single issue, he said.

Sedlack said he and the class chose to focus on sexual assault awareness this semester after the number of sexual assault alert emails increased this fall and after Christine Caron Gebhardt, co-chair of CSAP and director of the Gender Relations Center, suggested such a project.

“I like to keep the project as topical as possible,” Sedlack said. “After the shootings in Newton we did a project on gun control, and after that awful incident where fried chicken was placed in the [mailboxes of two African American student organizations], we did a project on racism. … I don’t really know what the project will be until about a week before I assign it.”

Sedlack said Caron Gebhardt spoke to the class and gave them background on sexual assault prevention. Each group in the class then tackled a different aspect of the issue.

In addition to tying tags around alcohol bottles, Komos and Swift put stickers in restrooms in bars, dorms, LaFortune Student Center and the football stadium and created a Tumblr page, Komos said. The campaign centers around four “rules” of consent and publicizes messages such as, “Nothing you’ve already done gives you permission to do the next thing,” and “True consent is especially difficult after a few shots of tequila,” she said.

“Our [campaign] is more on the preventative side, trying to get people aware of what sexual assault actually is and how to help people that have gone through it and how to avoid it happening to you or to your friends or to anyone that you’re with. That’s why I was drawn to this angle,” Komos said.

Senior Emily Hoffmann [Editor’s note: Hoffmann is a graphic designer for The Observer.] said she and her project partner, senior Eileen Murphy, wanted to target younger women who went to dorm parties. For their campaign, “Write It On the Wall,” they hung clear posters in the women’s restrooms of male dorms. The posters contained a statistic on sexual assault, a list of resources and an invitation to write on the poster with a Sharpie, starting a written dialogue about sexual assault.

“The girl’s bathroom is kind of like that safe zone where it’s judgment-free, or it’s the place where you go if you’re in an uncomfortable situation or you just want to get away from the party or you actually have to go to the bathroom, and girls seem to always go in pairs,” Hoffmann said. “It seemed like a good avenue to start this forum about sexual assault.”

Komos said in the days since their campaign began, images on the Tumblr page had been shared several times, and friends had asked her for stickers for themselves. She said she hoped the next phase of the project, which began Wednesday, would get the message to a younger audience.

“We’re going to finish making the stickers,” Komos said. “I have a lot of friends who are RAs, and we’re going to take them to dorms and start putting them in dorm bathrooms to try to get the awareness more away from the over-21 crowd and more into the younger crowd that would also be susceptible to these decisions.”

Hoffmann said when she and Murphy checked the dorm restrooms Monday, most of the posters had been taken down, but the ones that were still up showed that a dialogue had started.

“We took pictures of them, two of them in particular,” Hoffmann said. “There were about 20 different stories about either sexual assault that had happened to these girls or sexual assaults that had happened to friends of whoever was writing. There were definitely 20 different handwritings on the posters, some of them in response to others.”

“The most rewarding part was … some that said, ‘Thanks for doing this.'”

Contact Emily McConville  at emcconv1@nd.edu