In Case You Forgot, Rape Culture Is Alive And Well

A flyer for a New School University screening of the new Jennifer Baumgardner documentary “It Was Rape,” which chronicles eight women’s experiences of being raped, was defaced by someone on the New School’s campus. The flyer — which was defaced with the phrase “And It Felt Great” — was spotted by a student in one of the campus buildings, taken down and then handed over to the school’s wellness center. That’s where it was then passed on to Rhiannon Auriemma, a graduate student at the university and a peer health advocate at the school’s Student Health Services.

Auriemma has a degree in Women’s Studies and works on the university’s Yes Means Yes campaign, which aims to engage student voices around sexual assault while educating the New School community around issues of rape culture and sexual violence. She believes the flyer incident needs to be examined in the greater  context of rape culture. And though it may, on its face, seem like a small agression, as Auriemma explains it, “Because we are socialized within a culture that excuses and, at time, supports, gender based and sexual violence, micro-aggressions such as the defacing of the It Was Rape flyer take place.” And, she notes, we need to be vigilant — even in places and within institutions that we presume to be safe spaces. “While The New School is a liberal institution that attempts to subvert larger, structural oppressions, we are not exempt from the reality of these oppressions,” she said.

For their part, New School Associate Director of Communications Sam Biederman says the university takes the incident seriously. “We are committed and have always been committed to creating a space where students can openly discuss rape culture, its roots and how it can be stopped.” Biederman noted that the New School’s VDay group, a student-led group that works on issues of sexual assault, had several upcoming events planned. “We will definitely use this unfortunate incident as a launching point for lcontining discussions about rape culture and sexual violence.”

But for students who have experienced the traumas of sexual assault, discussing rape culture isn’t necessarily the same as creating a safe space for victims. “When someone anonymously scrawls something like “And it felt great!” under  a poster for It Was Rape,” said filmmaker Jennifer Baumgardner in a statement to The Frisky, “the tendency is to deny that it is reflective of the New School or our community. Minimizing rape by scrawling this “joke” on the poster is part of the general pattern of denial (of rape and its consequences) that allow it to remain an epidemic.”

Both Baumgardner and Auriemma believe this could ultimately be transformed into a positive moment of mobilization. The good thing, says Auriemma, is that “a student saw the flyer, reported the incident to staff, and took the initiative to take the flyer down. This student shows that we also have empowered bystanders in our community who are working to dismantle rape culture. So while I was really disheartened to know that incident took place, it was good to know that my fellow students are invested in tackling rape culture alongside me.”