Red River Rivalry weekend is considered a “red zone” for sexual assault. Between copious amounts of alcohol and engrained traditions, such as sharing a hotel room with your date, sexual assault rates spike drastically.
Hooked on Our Safety is a social media-based awareness campaign run through a partnership between student governments at UT and OU which consists of a series of infographics and a filter for your Facebook profile picture. The color-coordinated infographics have bullet points of information that have proliferated on my timeline.
Sexual assault on campus is such a serious and pressing issue that when I saw the “we’re in this together” graphic accompanying posts about resources for survivors, I rolled my eyes a little. The post seemed a hollow symbol of sexual assault prevention from the executive alliance campaign that promised to educate every single incoming freshman on the issue.
But then I talked with Isabella Fanucci, the Interpersonal Violence Prevention Policy co-director for Student Government, who helped launch the partnership last year. She explained that using social media as the medium for the campaign makes it much more likely to reach people who would be perpetrators or bystanders to an assault.
“Specifically with prevention, if you hold town halls or education initiatives where it’s voluntary to come, you’re really only going to get the people who want to learn about it,” Fanucci said.
A social media campaign, however, has the potential to reach thousands of eyes, including people who simply view it but don’t like or share it.
The campaign’s goal is to put sexual assault on the radar of those likely to unknowingly commit it. It also has a prevention aspect. Prior to OU weekend, SG is releasing graphics that give a primer on consent and the effects of alcohol on decision-making.
Sexual assault is a heavy topic, and conversations around it can often alienate people who don’t have an in-depth understanding of the issue. A lack of understanding often makes a person more likely to commit sexual assault.
“We have to work on balancing the aspects of this as a serious conversation,” Fanucci said. “You can’t make it so serious that it’s to the point where people won’t want to read it because it will make them uncomfortable.”
Only the numbers will be able to tell whether the campaign is effective, and we won’t know those until after this weekend. But at least with this campaign, prevention is aimed to meet the population in a way they can understand and interact with.
We will only begin to see change when we’ve required young men to participate in these vital conversations. This campaign could be an important step towards putting sexual assault on people’s radar in a way it could not otherwise.
MacLean is an advertising and geography senior from Austin.