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Student creates powerful photo series depicting true stories of rape survivors

it happened.jpg

CONTENT WARNING: The following article contains sensitive content that may be triggering to sexual assault survivors.

In March 2016, American student Brock Turner was found guilty of sexually assaulting a young woman as she lay unconscious behind a dumpster at Stanford University, USA.
 
But, despite the fact that the 20-year-old had only served three months of his six-month sentence, he was released on 2 September 2016.
 
Thousands took to social media to furiously protest the decision, highlighting the fact that the convicted rapist’s six-month sentence had already been considered to be too lenient.
 
Thoroughly frustrated by the case, student Yana Mazurkevich has channelled her anger into a chilling photography project.
 
Simply titled It Happens, the images in the series captures the places on campus where rape and sexual assault happen.
 
The project is made even more powerful by the fact that each photograph is paired with a survivor’s true story.


Read more: outcry over lenient sentence for US student who raped unconscious woman


The images, which were shared on Facebook, came with an in-depth introduction.

It read: “In today’s society, sexual violence is dismissed as quickly as its perpetrators. It's no wonder assaults go severely under reported.

“How can statements like ‘it was only 20 minutes of action’ lead to so much inaction? We believe justice can't be served until the sentence matches the severity of the crime.

“That's why, today, Current Solutions and Yana Mazurkevich are publishing a photo series in response to Turner’s early release, showing that sexual assault can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime, without warning and without reason.”


Read more: Colorado campus rape survivor shares powerful statement as student attacker avoids prison


They added that all of the stories accompanying the images were submitted anonymously, and that models and actors have been used throughout.

See the full campaign and the survivors' stories below:


It Happens - Yana Mazurkevich

It Happens - Yana Mazurkevich

“I blacked out and just remember very short flashing images… I remember him asking me if I was on birth control, but I was too incoherent to talk. I was trying to explain that I wasn't. We had sex anyway. I didn't want to and I barely remember it.”


It Happens - Yana Mazurkevich

It Happens - Yana Mazurkevich

“I was at a party once, sober, and two of my good female friends pulled me aside, telling me that someone needed help. They pulled me into this room and pinned me against the wall and started kissing me and taking my pants off, but I was able to push them off and leave. The two girls who were my friends claim that they don't remember the incident since they were drunk.”


It Happens - Yana Mazurkevich

It Happens - Yana Mazurkevich

“I can't remember details or the order of things, but she was very, very aggressive. She left bruises all over me and I was bleeding the next morning. She held me down and forced a lot. I didn't say no clearly, but I definitely didn't agree to the aggressive actions she took. Lack of consent is not the presence of a no, it's also the absence of a yes.”


It Happens - Yana Mazurkevich

It Happens - Yana Mazurkevich

“He made me feel guilty if I didn’t do what he wanted. I remember on prom night, I was exhausted and just wanted to go home, but he insisted we mess around because that was the whole point of prom night, and that's what we were supposed to do. I still wonder if he knew just how manipulative he was.”


It Happens - Yana Mazurkevich

It Happens - Yana Mazurkevich

“When I was in high school, the only place to live for me was my uncles' place. I thought I could trust them, but there were nights when I would wake up to one of them, the biological one, in my room, or he would sneakily try to touch my junk. I never really resolved it.”


It Happens - Yana Mazurkevich

It Happens - Yana Mazurkevich

“I lost my virginity at a party when I was in middle school. He gave me a drink and I can’t really remember what happened after that. Just bits and pieces for the most part... but I couldn’t say no or push him off while he made me have sex with him. I woke up next to him and I was really sore but i couldn’t tell anyone what happened.”


It Happens - Yana Mazurkevich

It Happens - Yana Mazurkevich

“I was tattooed by a guy and while he was tattooing me, he kept inserting his fingers up my vagina. He said he had to keep his hand there to keep the skin taut for tattooing. The most ironic part is that the tattoo is the symbol for female; I wanted the tattoo as a sign of feminism and got sexually assaulted in the process.”


It Happens - Yana Mazurkevich

It Happens - Yana Mazurkevich

“We had been drinking and, by the end of the night, I had lost all control. I was falling in and out of consciousness. I remember waking up with him on top of me but I kept passing back out before I could do anything about it. I always thought it was my fault for getting too drunk.”


It Happens - Yana Mazurkevich

It Happens - Yana Mazurkevich

“You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today.” - Stanford assault survivor


Speaking to Buzzfeed about the thought-provoking photos, Mazurkevich said that they are her way of saying, “Look. Look at this and don’t even try to ignore it because it’s right there in front of you to stare at.”
 
She added: “And this happens to real people, people close to you, people who you know.”
 

The talented artist has also created a dark photo series titled Dear Brock Turner… 


Read more: Lena Dunham and the cast of Girls support Stanford rape victim in powerful new video


Turner was convicted of three crimes: assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman; sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object; and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object.

He committed the assault in January 2015, after finding his unnamed victim unconscious behind a dumpster near Stanford University’s Kappa Alpha fraternity.

When two graduates discovered him “thrusting” on top of the woman, he tried to flee, but they chased him down and called the police.

The case prompted serious discussions about bias in the US court systems and media, particularly over the way the criminal justice system appears to privilege the wealthy and ignore the seriousness of certain crimes such as campus rape. 


Read more: US Vice President writes powerful open letter to the Stanford rape victim


Turner’s 23-year-old victim addressed the issue herself in a blistering, 7,138-word impact statement, which asked why her rapist’s athletic accolades and swimming career were relevant to his sentencing.

“How fast Brock swims does not lessen the severity of what happened to me, and should not lessen the severity of his punishment,” she wrote.

“If a first time offender from an underprivileged background was accused of three felonies and displayed no accountability for his actions other than drinking, what would his sentence be?

“The fact that Brock was an athlete at a private university should not be seen as an entitlement to leniency, but as an opportunity to send a message that sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class.”


Read more: harrowing video reveals true impact of domestic abuse


While the Stanford rape case has served to further highlight the rape culture that pervades American campus universities, a recent survey from Drinkaware has revealed that campus sexual assault is just as big an issue in the UK.

After speaking with over 2,000 students across the UK, three quarters of those aged 18-24 admitted to having experienced one or more of the following on a night out over a 12 month period: inappropriate sexual touching, comments or abuse; vomiting; having an accident; a regrettable sexual encounter or experiencing uncertainty around one; passing out in public; involvement in a fight, or needing hospitalisation.

More worryingly, over half of 18-24 year-old female students confirmed that they had experienced sexual harassment (inappropriate touching, comments or abuse) on nights out. Among these women, 51% confirmed this is something they experience most or every time they go out, and only one in seven were surprised to be at the receiving end of it.

It’s not just women, almost one in seven (15%) male students experience inappropriate or unwanted sexual comments and touching on a night out.

To support young people Drinkaware have now introduced a team of specially trained staff, Drinkaware Crew, in four university towns across the country. By the end of the year, the scheme will be rolled out across the UK.

The aim is to reduce negative experiences related to drunkenness – including anti-social behaviour and sexual harassment. The team will work in bars and clubs to promote a positive social atmosphere, support those who might be vulnerable as a result of drinking too much, and ensure young people get home safely. 

They have also launched a campaign which aims to stop people using alcohol as an excuse in these situations, titled You wouldn’t sober, you shouldn’t drunk.

You can join the conversation on Twitter at #GropeFreeNights. 

If you or someone you know needs support relating to sexual assault or rape, you can visit Rape Crisis or Victim Support.

Find out more about Yana Mazurkevich's work here.

Images: Facebook

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