When Utah State University student Brianna Perini was doing research on sexual assault statistics for a project in her dress and humanity class, she wanted to do something to show her findings, which she said were surprisingly high.
According to her research, 35 out of every 1,000 female college students will be a victim of sex crime each year. Since USU has slightly more than 15,000 students, she estimated 500 female USU students will be assaulted every year.
“It’s easy to just look at a number and be like ‘oh yeah, that’s a lot,’” which is why she decided to show the number through a picture on a social media post.
Rather than just sharing statistics, Perini painted a series of lines on her friend, Samantha Shipley. Each line represented a woman who, statistically, has been a victim of a sex crime each year on a college campus.
The post, which read “every line is a sister, a daughter, a friend, a human being,” displayed Shipley with 526 lines painted over her body. 521 blue lines represented women assaulted on college campuses, while five white lines represented assaults which are reported to campus resources or law enforcement.
“Everyone knows that (sexual assault) is a big deal, but people don’t realize how big of a deal it is,” Perini said.
Perini’s post was part of a series of assignments in USU Professor Windi Turner’s dress and humanity course.
Throughout the semester, Turner’s students had various options to promote awareness for sexual assault on college campuses.
Students in the class posted their experiences with sexual assault anonymously on class blog posts, which inspired Perini to create her picture and put it on social media.
“I knew it happened, but hearing the stories from people in my class really hit me,” she said.
While Perini’s post received 401 “likes” on Instagram and 128 “likes” on Facebook, it also received criticism.
Comments doubting her research and criticizing her also appeared on social media. However, she responded by sharing links to her research findings, which were found on the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
Perini also said the criticism she received did not matter to her because “The amount of crap that I got does not even compare to what someone who is assaulted is feeling.”
Shipley, who was the subject of the photo, said it was surprising to see the statistics when she was washing the paint off her body after the photo was taken.
“I knew it was gonna be a big number but I didn’t think it would be that big of a number,” Shipley said. “I can’t even imagine that many people.”
Shipley also said she decided to participate in the project because of a story she heard about a girl who had been sexually assaulted twice, but was afraid to report her assault because she was drinking.
“Just because you were under the influence doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get help,” Shipley said. “ They feel like if they go to police or report it then people are gonna turn them into the reason why it happened,” she said.
Both women said they would encourage victims of sexual assault to come forward because “someone will listen.”
Photo courtesy of Brianna Perini