Photographer’s ‘Dear Brock Turner’ Series Exposes The Cultural Failure Around Victims Of Rape

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An incident which exposed the deeper underbelly of rape culture in America today, was the recent Brock Turner rape case. Various media outlets referred to it as the case of the “Stanford Swimmer” as if to subtly attach some hero-worship of this criminal (because in case anyone forgot, rape is indeed a crime). It’s pretty standard in a society which is far too quick to excuse the violent actions of male athletes or stars in a way that conveniently positions the victims as the one to blame.

There were of course the added racial discussions in this incident, as many discussed how the media were quick to use his clean school photos to peddle on the daily news cycle, but in cases where a black man is accused of a crime, for instance, it is far more common for the media to dig up the most unflattering images and aspects of his life to paint him out to be a social menace, which conveniently fits into a binary dialog about race in our country right now.

The fact that the judge only gave Brock Turner a 6 month sentence because he has no prior record and excessive jail time would “have a severe impact on him” is both an egregious statement and wholly neglects to focus on the real victim of this act – the girl who was raped while unconscious.

It has sadly become a predictably depressing cycle whenever a major rape or sexual assault story hits the news, where the actual victim is sometimes the last person considered in discussions by experts, pundits and those with a vested interest in this issue. The victim did speak out by sharing a viral letter about her ordeal, but we can totally understand why she chose to remain anonymous. With victim-blaming becoming the “go to” line of defense in cases of rape, especially where high profile or athletes are involved, it’s as if society is telling these victims their voice does not count.

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Which is why the following photography series by Yana Mazurkevich is so important. Her ‘Dear Brock Turner’ visual commentary is effectively giving voice to the victims whose point of view and pain is seemingly too easily brushed away in favor of more polarizing and headline-grabbing sound-bites.

Yana launched this series on Current Solutions, the platform which shares stories about gender inequity, domestic violence, and sexual assault. Yana is part of their team as an in-house featured artist, and her work is clearly a perfect extension of the powerful messages they are sharing with the online world. The coolest part about Current Solutions is that it was founded by students just over a month ago, and their platform was designed for others to share their own stories of sexual assault with the intent to raise awareness. A very important voice to have on the world wide web right now!

Yana told Bust.com that the creative specs of the shoot at first were simply an artistic, but the idea of throwing colored paint on the women in their underwear, holding signs against a black background actually took on a deeper significance tying into the message of the photo series.

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“After the powder was thrown at the models/my friends, I heard one of my friends say that it was very unexpected when the powder was going to hit her. I was immediately moved by that, and quickly made the reference to how an attack can come out of nowhere, and you just never know when it’s going to hit you…A few commented saying how it was up their nose and in their hair.  Everything was just so dirty. And isn’t that how it feels after someone touches you? Dirty? I know I felt that way completely. Absolutely filthy,” she said.

Maxwell Fong, co-founder of Current Solutions told Bust that they really want to put a face to all the voiceless, ignored and shamed victims in the world.

“Most people know the statistic one in four women are assaulted during their college career, but what most people don’t realize is that this happens to one in four women they know. By putting faces to these stories, we’re showing the world that people are not afraid to speak out,” he said.

We spoke with Yana about her series and asked her about rape culture and what society can do to stop the epidemic of victim-blaming.

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Why did the Brock Turner case become the idea behind this series? 

I made the series before the Brock Turner case had happened. However, Current Solutions quickly saw the influence in the series, and tied it perfectly to the Brock Turner case, titling it “Dear Brock Turner.” Our collaboration on this project really brought out the importance of this subject, so I am really glad that I had the opportunity to work with Current Solutions on this.

The idea behind the series was an accumulation of personal experiences and experiences that my friends have faced. There comes a point when it just pisses you off and you want to do something about it. I know that my way of showcasing my emotions is by freezing something in motion, something that could actually happen in real life, and 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.” My next series really captures that aspect, because I’m focusing on showing what people don’t want to look at.

What message do you want our readers to leave with after looking at your series? 

I would like my work to speak on any possible medium. If you connect with the photographs, then that means to me, as an artist, that I’ve delivered something influential. The fact that I have victims and survivors reaching out to me and telling me their own personal stories is beyond unbelievable and meaningful. However, the obvious message I want everyone to take away is that it is never the your (the victim’s) fault. This is so important for not only the victim to know but for those who know people who have faced assault. You have to know what to say and do in these situations.

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What do you think it will take to have a complete cultural change with the way we treat victims of sexual assault, and do you think speaking out will have an effect on the justice system? 

Everything needs a dialogue. However, people are uncomfortable to talk about serious topics such as this. We tend to go all three wise monkeys and just close ourselves off from talking about inequalities that exist today. People are different and prefer to abstain from certain conversations, but these conversations NEED to happen. We NEED to discuss what is right and what is wrong. Speaking out is so important, because you’re showing others that it’s possible and harmless to do so. Everyone has a voice, and everyone has the right to speak out, and should really use that to their advantage. People will always follow when others lead by example, so might as well be the one to lead.

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You can see more of Yana’s work by visiting her website and following her on Facebook. To find out more about Current Solutions and support important work created by a group of awesome students, check out their website and Facebook page.

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3 Comments

  1. brookingstyler says:

    don’t forget mattress girl

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