Atthar Mirza and Elizabeth Ballou — second and third-year College students, respectively — released a self-made video Thursday evening thanking Jackie for telling her story and offering support for sexual assault survivors in the University community.
Jackie, a University student, told Rolling Stone magazine seven men — one of whom she worked with as a lifeguard at the Aquatic and Fitness Center — raped her at a Phi Kappa Psi fraternity party on September 28, 2012.
The fraternity has since disputed Jackie’s story, claiming there was no party on that particular date and that no Phi Kappa Psi brother worked at the Aquatic and Fitness Center at that time. The conflicting accounts have stirred controversy on Grounds and in the national media.
“I felt people were fixating on the details and quality of Rolling Stone reporting, and the fact is, whatever happened, something happened to Jackie,” Mirza said. “And even if she made up the story, things like this do happen, and there are sexual assaults that don’t get reported, so I meant to bring the focus back to Jackie. Whatever comes of this, we’re still behind her and we still think she did something brave by coming forward.”
Mirza produced the video himself using Adobe After Effects software. Ballou edited the script and provided the voice-over for the short piece. The pair met after receiving prizes for a contest held last month commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall.
“We were eating brunch at Pigeon Hole, talking about projects we were both working on, and Rolling Stone came up because I was very angry about the Rolling Stone retraction,” Ballou said. “He said he was doing a video and asked if I wanted to look at the text and do the voice over. We met up in the media lab and I looked over the text and changed some things, and went into the recording booth and voiced.”
The video opens with a statement of thanks and a message of hope for survivors.
“Thank you for pulling back the curtain, for taking rape from an open secret to a public issue,” it says. “Thanks for your bravery.”
Ballou recently authored an article for Bustle.com about the frustration many University students have felt following Jackie’s account and Rolling Stone’s subsequent apology for its "misplaced" trust in Jackie. Rolling Stone has since revised its original apology and removed the sentence containing the phrase "our trust in her was misplaced."
As a survivor of sexual assault herself, Ballou said, the issue of rape and sexual assault at the University is personal.
“I read many peoples’ responses to the Rolling Stone article, many of which were saying something like, ‘I too have been a victim and I kept quiet about it,’” Ballou said. “I really identified with those, because I was sexually assaulted my first year and I didn’t go to the Sexual Misconduct Board. I didn’t think it was serious enough. And now I regret not trying to address it in some way.”
Mirza said he hopes the video will provide support for Jackie and propel the conversation around sexual assault prevention forward in coming months.
“The biggest danger of this discussion around sexual assault is that it will fade,” he said. “We can’t let that happen. So to keep this discussion going I wanted to contribute something that will stick in people’s brains for a bit longer."