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Fed Up With Rape On Campuses, Demonstrators Define Consent With Art

By Stephanie Lulay | November 18, 2016 5:50am | Updated on November 18, 2016 8:05am
 Launched in Chicago this summer, The Know No Project aims to increase awareness and understanding of what constitutes sexual consent.
Launched in Chicago this summer, The Know No Project aims to increase awareness and understanding of what constitutes sexual consent.
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DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay

UNIVERSITY VILLAGE — One woman, seemingly passed out on an air mattress in the middle of UIC's quad Thursday, aimed to spark a conversation about sexual assault on college campuses. 

Sprawled out next to a sign that read, "If I Can’t Say No, I Can’t Say Yes," the silent demonstration at the University of Illinois at Chicago was part of The Know No Project's campaign to increase awareness and understanding of what constitutes sexual consent. 

The initiative, launched in Chicago this summer, was founded in response to the Brock Turner rape case, in which the Stanford University swimmer was sentenced to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster on campus in January 2015. The case, and the victim's emotional impact letter, was widely discussed in a Facebook group for women who work in advertising, co-founder Stephanie Franke said. 

"People were coming out of the woodwork telling their stories, saying, 'This happened to me,' or 'This happened to my sister,'" Franke remembered. "We just couldn't stop talking about it... about how our pop culture and movies have all sort of made light of it, or a joke of it, accepted it, or promoted it." 

Know No Project co-founders Stephanie Franke, Snake Roth and volunteer Carly Neville on the UIC campus Friday. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]

A senior creative lead at advertising agency MARC USA, Franke teamed with her colleague Snake Roth to launch a campaign to eliminate the perception that in some situations what constitutes consent is "a blurred line" or "gray area," she said. 

In fact, consent is clearly defined under state laws. An incapacitated individual of any gender cannot say “no” if they also cannot say “yes." 

"All of this is spelled out in law, but why doesn't anybody know it?" Franke said. 

Through a website, videos, live demonstrations and a consent quiz, the project aims to promote clarity around sexual consent, reduce the number of sexual assaults and provide support for survivors. 

"We're not social workers," Franke said. "But we can create awareness." 

The consent quiz asks questions like, "If someone is intoxicated, are they able to give consent?" and "If someone does not specifically tell you no, is that consent?" 

Since its debut, the group has hosted live demonstrations at Northwestern University and sparked demonstrations at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and Ithaca College in New York. The campaign has been featured in AdWeek, Upworthy and other media outlets. 

In 2014, five people reported they were raped on the UIC campus, according to U.S. Department of Education data provided under the Clery Act. 

At Loyola University in Rogers Park, an 18-year-old student reported being sexually assaulted inside a dorm room last week, marking the fifth sexual assault reported by students this semester. 

Nikki Janes, a sophomore at UIC, said that the demonstration brought to light a "taboo" topic that "nobody talks about, but everyone knows happens." 

"I love and support that they are creating awareness. I think that's great," Janes said. 

The Know No Project's visit to UIC was sponsored by UIC’s Office of the Dean of Students, Wellness Center, Campus Advocacy Network and Counseling Center. 

The Know No campaign isn't the first to incorporate a mattress in protest of sexual assault. In 2015, Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz made headlines when she carried a dorm-sized mattress to classes, promising to carry it for as long as she and her alleged rapist attend the same school. In May 2015, Sulkowicz walked across the stage at graduation with the mattress in tow. 

A student snaps a photo of The Know No Project's demonstration Thursday on the UIC campus. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]

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