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SVA Students' Grassroots #WhyIDidntReport Campaign Wins a Webby

When Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward last year with an accusation of sexual assault against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, it was a difficult time for many, but especially survivors of sexual abuse. Ford's testimony was attacked and dismissed. Even President Donald Trump questioned her honesty, asking on Twitter why she hadn't reported anything earlier if it was "as bad as she says." Not long after, BFA Advertising students Ha Jung Song and Bowook Yoon introduced #WhyIDidntReport, a dedicated Instagram account (@WhyIDidntReportIt), printed flyer and Instagram template created for survivors to share their reasons for not reporting their own assaults.

Just last month, Song and Woon’s project was announced as a Webby Award winner, for Public Good and Activism in the Social category, which recognizes projects aimed at changing the world for the better. Faculty member Thomas Shim (BFA 2011 Graphic Design) served as creative director for #WhyIDidntReport and was also recognized. The social media initiative was built on a simple flyer, printed and pasted around New York City as well as shared digitally, which prompts survivors to fill in the blank space with their stories, and to share an image of that disclosure online.

"We decided to provide people with a simple way to tell their stories," Song and Yoon said. "We want everyone who sees the flyers or our Instagram Stories to understand that the reasons [for not reporting] are not as simple or easy as many think. We want all the brave survivors to know that they are not alone and that their stories are valid and we want each story to change the narrative and empower everyone to fight for what's right."

Song and Yoon came up with the project as an assignment for Shim's Make Something Fantastic course, for which students were asked to use their creativity to support or promote something they cared about. They chose to focus on survivors of sexual assault after realizing the extent of the stigma around both reporting and staying silent, and decided to use Instagram as a platform because of its privacy, easy access and share-ability.

"I think the simplicity set it apart," Shim said. "And the timeliness. It wasn't about solving the problem, but our intent was to educate ourselves." Since its launch, #WhyIDidntReport has received more than 30,000 stories from survivors and was covered by the The New York Times, though Song and Yoon initially chose to remain anonymous in order to provide a safe platform and focus attention on survivors. The Instagram account remains active and #WhyIDidntReport is widely used on Twitter.

The students submitted their project for Webby consideration earlier this year, hoping to spread awareness of the many dimensions of sexual abuse and assault. "We're so thankful and grateful to all the brave survivors around the world for sharing their stories and inspiring others to speak up," they said. "People say we work in a communications art form, and to oversimplify it, our job is to generate conversation," said Shim, who had previously worked with Yoon on another public awareness project around #MeToo. "We should use that power for good."

A televised awards show for the Webbys airs Monday, May 13. Congratulations to Song, Yoon and Shim!

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