Brock Turner’s release from jail inspired a photo series boldly speaking out against sexual assault
When Brock Turner was released from jail after only three months, decent human beings everywhere were angry. Yana Mazurkevich, a student at Ithaca College in New York, turned her anger into an anti-sexual assault photo series. Called “It Happens,” the series was created for sexual assault awareness organization Current Solutions and features staged portrayals of sexual assault with captions such as “It happens suddenly” and “It happens unwillingly.” As Mazurkevich told Buzzfeed, the title and caption were meant to emphasize that “this happens to real people, people close to you, people who you know.” The series draws from her own experiences as a sexual assault survivor and personal stories from her friends, and it quickly caught people’s attention on Facebook and Tumblr.
Mazurkevich has previously created work dealing with issues of sexual assault, and even Turner specifically. In June, she put together the photo series “Dear Brock Turner,” wherein women held up whiteboards with victim-blaming quotes like “I shouldn’t have been walking alone” combined with quotes from the powerful letter read by Turner’s victim at his trial. Although the series was criticized for what some saw as the overwhelming whiteness and possible sexualization of the women depicted, Mazurkevich says she took these critiques into account when developing “It Happened.” She told Ithaca College’s student newspaper The Ithacan, “I wanted to expand on diversity and gender equality, as well as race and ethnicity because in my first series, that really lacked a lot.”
Unlike other anti-sexual assault campaigns, the imagery in Mazurkevich’s series recognizes that the victims of sexual assault are not solely women and that perpetrators are not solely men. While most of the violence in the photos is male-on-female, there are also photos of women committing sexual assault and men being assaulted. As the caption on one photo states, “It happens to anyone.”
“It Happens” reminds us that rapists and victims don’t correspond to any one stereotype. The only constant is that the act takes something deeply important from the victim. In a time when survivors of sexual assault are so often blamed and reviled, and when sexual assault offenders are given the most lenient sentences imaginable, it’s a message everyone needs to take in.