A few years back, I was a guest speaker at a local university's "Take Back the Night" Program, a program that takes place in over 30 countries dedicated to ending sexual violence. As a sexual violence survivor myself, it is a cause to which I am intensely dedicated and it is a cause that, sadly, to this day we have a hard time speaking about in any sort of open way.
Then, HE came up to the microphone to speak.
HE was a representative of the campus security. I suppose in some ways he was an obligatory presence given that the event required campus approval and campus security given that we would be marching around campus. However, what he said was nothing short of appalling.
Using virtually every stereotype imaginable, he proceeded to assign the task of preventing rape to women by talking about all the things that women could do to prevent their potential victimization - yes, all the stereotypical things like not drinking at parties, not dressing provocatively, and all that other drivel.
You could feel those amongst the organizers, most of whom had experienced sexual assault, seething in a quiet rage that they were, in both subtle and not so subtle ways, being blamed for their attacks.
This is the world into which writer/director Simon Fox has planted the powerful and thought-provoking seven-minute short film, Perspective, a film that approaches the subject of sexual violence in a simple yet most powerful way. The film follows a young woman as she attends a party, seemingly amongst friends and acquaintances, where she is seen through the lens of three different perspectives - each one reaching a preconceived bias or judgment about her behavior, her clothing, or simply her presence as we lead up to what we know will be her sexual assault.
Fox, rather wisely, does not give the power of this story to the sexual assault itself. We are privvy to those moments before and those moments after, but Perspective focuses itself almost entirely on how easily we allow ourselves as a society to fall into blaming behaviors whether it be judging someone's hair flipping as a flirtatious behavior or determining that someone's clothing might have provoked an attack.
Oh sure, we say "Well, she didn't deserve it BUT..."
There's always that disclaimer...that somehow, if a woman had acted differently or dressed differently or not done this or not done that then somehow the end result would have been different. Somehow, she wouldn't have been sexually assaulted.
Of course, that is bullshit. Completely.
But, we do it.
Perspective is powerful because it is both universal and intimate, knowing that a rape victim is often assaulted by someone she knows or is often in a familiar place, Perspective takes place at a seemingly modest sized party where it would seem that such behavior would be impossible. Of course, it is not. Without resorting to caricature, Fox presents us with the stereotypes we so easily buy into and gives us a compelling victim, at once warm and friendly yet also confidently herself. I must confess that I felt my heart breaking even knowing where this story was going, knowing that there wasn't a single thing this young woman was doing that warranted where her story was going to go.
Perspective is currently finding quite a bit of success on the indie fest circuit and there's simply no question that its relevant story and important discussion will play well on the fest scene stateside. For more information on the film, be sure to visit the official Dragonstone Pictures website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic