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My Sister’s Keeper Joins Project Know No To Raise Awareness of Sexual Consent on Campuses

Posted January 31, 2017

Brock Turner‘s victim, Kamilah Willingham, Harry Lewis, and – these three are just a few of the one in 5 women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.

Project Know No, the national movement created by MARC USA, to raise awareness and understanding of sexual consent, has partnered with The Black Women’s Health Imperative’s My Sister’s Keeper program to bring its message to the nation’s historically black colleges and universities.

Know No was launched last September in the wake of light sentences for campus sexual offenders and the lack of clarity around sexual consent, particularly when victims are intoxicated or unconscious or when they know the attacker. The goal is to spark conversations and change behavior around this increasingly pervasive issue.

Since the launch, colleges around the country have held Know No events to create awareness and connect students to campus resources for prevention and victim support. My Sister’s Keeper, an advocacy and leadership-building initiative of the Black Women’s Health Imperative, has now joined with Know No to provide awareness and education on the campuses it serves with events planned at select HBCUs, including Southern University and A&M College, in the coming months.

The initiative aims to  dramatize the plight of an unconscious sexual assault victim. Set to the track of “Til It Happens to You” by Lady Gaga and Diane Warren, who donated the use of the music to help spread the Know No message, the video has been seen more than a million times on social media.

The website KnowNo.us includes a quick quiz where visitors can test their knowledge of consent, links to consent definitions by state and resources for victims of sexual assault. The same quiz is available at Know No events on campuses.

The Black Women’s Health Imperative initiated the collaboration with Know No as another way to connect with the young women in its My Sister’s Keeper program and encourage them to support each other in making healthy choices, protect one another from intimate partner violence and serve as leaders on campus and in communities. “My Sister’s Keeper encourages every woman on campus to get involved, get informed and use her voice as her sister’s keeper and strongest advocate,” said Osub Ahmed, My Sister’s Keeper project manager, in a statement.

DIVERGE talked to Stephanie Franke, Creative Director at MARC USA to find out more:

Where did this idea come from?

This campaign came about shortly after the Stanford victim released her open letter. There was such a social outpouring, with so much frustration and outrage. And stories never told were coming out of the woodwork. Friends we had known for years were sharing their own experiences for the first time. This inspired us to dig deeper into the issue. Snake Roth, MARC USA’s Executive Producer, and I decided to do something about it. We felt we could not sit back in silence any longer.

In the verdict of the Stanford case, as well as a swell of others that came to the surface in its wake, the crimes committed seemed so blatantly wrong, and yet there seemed to be some question about whether or not consent had been given!  Snake Roth came up with the idea of having a young woman seemingly out of place in a public venue, with the statement, “If I can’t say no, I can’t say yes.”

We believed that people would see the issue more clearly in the light of day, out of context from the typical party or date scene, where lines can seem blurred. We wanted to shake people out of their stupor and call attention to the truth in this issue.

But we did not want to just go out and make a grand statement. We wanted to educate and change behavior in the simplest way but with great impact.

Why is this project significant?

It struck us that after all these years of “no means no” efforts, consent is still being referred to as a gray area. It was then that we knew our mission. As advertisers, awareness is something we should be able to master. And clearly this is an awareness issue. Thus, the Know No Project was born. It’s not just about knowing that no means no; it’s about understanding where no comes into play in all those questionable circumstances. The simplicity of the Know No message has really struck a chord with college students, because it is not preachy, but just gets straight to the facts. Clarity of this message is its power.

Why is this partnership significant?

We were contacted by MSK because they had seen our video and wanted to bring the Know No message to the campuses where they are building a presence. Sexual violence, unintended pregnancy and the consequences of risky sexual behavior are among the leading causes that women drop out of college. A key goal of My Sister’s Keeper is to foster dialogue among peers about sexual health, reproductive justice and intimate partner violence. They saw the Know No message and campus demonstrations as highly visible way to start conversations and connect students to MSK as a resource for support.

One thing we discovered in our events is the importance of having support on hand when the subject is raised. These events inspire people to talk about their own experiences, many for the first time. So it is of huge value to have organizations such as My Sister’s Keeper sponsor the message, so victims know they have a place to turn for support.

By co-branding with MSK, we are not only able to extend our reach to more universities, we are able to help more young women know that others understand and support them.

With federal grants for sexual assault counseling coming into question, prevention itself is more important than ever.

Rae Ogelsby, Director of Marketing and Communications, Black Women’s Health Imperative told DIVERGE about why sexual assault at HBCU’s should be a focus. 

Why is it important to focus on women of color and sexual assault, especially at HCBUS?

Black women face particularly high levels of sexual assault and intimate partner violence.

–       Approximately 4 out of 10 Black women have been the victim of rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner

–       The number one killer of Black women ages 15 to 34 is homicide at the hands of a current or former intimate partner

–       In a study of Black sexual assault survivors, only 17% reported the assault to police.

As mentioned earlier, sexual assault, intimate partner violence and the consequences they bring are some of the top reasons women drop out of college. The Black Women’s Health Imperative is committed to supporting and empowering college women with the tools they need to protect themselves and their sisters, both on and off campus, at HBCUs and other campuses. Know No and its message about consent is one of those tools.