POST 8 Materialising Change

This Is Rape Culture - ISTD Protest Brief Shelley Wills.jpg

Wills, S. 2014 This Is Rape Culture – ISTD Protest Brief 2014, viewed 1/9/2016

Problem Statement

Who Does the Problem Affect?

Gender based violence is an issue of extensive and epidemic proportions, with women comprising the majority of GBD victims. On a global scale 1 in 3 women experience gender based violence in their lifetime, and within an Australian context, one woman is killed in domestic violence on average per week. Race, age, sexuality and economic backgrounds result in different rates of gender based violence within female sub-communities. Gender based violence also affects men, especially within the LGBTQI community, occurring both in domestic and public environments.

What Are the Boundaries of the Problem?

Whilst gender based violence remains a concern within any government system, many attempts to resolve the problem has failed to address the root of the issue – gender inequality. Women who are affected by gender based violence are constantly held accountable for their attacks, and society has rendered women’s safety as a treacherous minefield that women must navigate in order to avoid being attacked. Society has established a set of instructions to control a woman’s appearance, sexuality, alcohol consumption and overall behaviour to prevent attracting predators. However even if women were to follow all of these “preventive” measures, she is still susceptible to experiencing violence due to encouraged male sexual aggression and the objectification of women.

When Does the Problem Occur?

Whilst the environment of sexual assault is typically illustrated as a dark alley during late night hours, sexual assault can occur at any time, even within contexts that are conventionally perceived as “safe”. Reinforcing these misconceptions continues to inhibit progress in the GBD conversation by ignoring the mass prevalence of the issue.

When Does it Need to be Fixed?

In consideration of the frequency and brutality of GBD violence, there has been a gradual, growing sense of urgency towards resolving the issue. With the mainstream rise of feminism, more people are engaging in meaningful and polemic discussions about gender inequality and how it creates gender based violence.

Where is the problem occurring?

Since gender inequality is institutionalised on a global scale, GBD can occur in any space, both domestic and public, rural and urban, first world and third world countries. Conventionally sexual assault is associated with environments linked to nightlife activities and party culture environments such as bars and clubs. However there has been recent emphasis on the prevalence of GBD in educational institutions such as schools and colleges.

Why is it important that the problem is fixed? What impact does it have on all stakeholders?

Due to the prevalence of gender based violence, the issue has been largely downplayed and accepted as a normal, inevitable part of the female experience. As a result, women have had develop a series of fears and anxieties that we internalize on an everyday basis in attempts to protect ourselves in a society that fails to do so. Combatting gender based violence starts with establishing a deconstructive, critical view of gender norms, in particular – toxic masculinity. If men were not denied the right to be emotionally expressive and freed of pressures of masculine strength and power, they wouldn’t have to seek the verification of self worth through the dominance of the female body. Thus, the resolve of gender based violence, empowers both men and women as human beings who are more capable and worthy than gender portrays them to be

Design Possibilities:

  1. Twitter bot (generative design) to confront users who use the phrase “Asking for it” as a means to blame the victim of sexual assault. Author receives automated message of the detrimental sexism behind the statement as a means to enlighten the user.
  2. Data Visualisation Infographic to compare conviction rates of sexual assault offenders and offenders of minor crimes to demonstrate judicial downplay of GBD
  3. Data Visualise trending of pop culture song lyrics which encourage male sexual aggression and devalue consent e.g. Blurred Lines
  4. Service Design of an app specialised towards victims of revenge porn (the unconsentful publication of nude photos of an individual), provides support through an online community of individuals who share the same experience and informs victim of legal options and counselling. Anonymity is also optional.
  5. Generative design targets internet trolls who target women with violent and sexist remarks, automated message to explain the detriment behind their words but also asks user about mental health, expressing that the dehumanization of women will not resolve insecurities. Provides links to online support resources for male to male counselling and support.


The legal handling of sexual assault cases has been largely unaddressed in the discussion of gender based violence in Australia though I find it to be a quite powerful stakeholder in the issue. Universally, the justice system has a consistent pattern of allowing offenders to walk out of the courtroom free of charges or with minimal sentencing e.g.Cho Doo Soon a serial offender is serving a 12 year prison sentence for the 2008 rape and beating of a 6 year old girl.

Many events of sexual assault are committed by repeat offenders who have have received little to no sentencing for their prior crimes. The lack of sentencing downplays the seriousness of sexual assault and allows for offenders to recommit their crimes without consequence. This contributes to socio-cultural sanction of gender based violence by the people who are responsible for preventing assault and resolving the issue. Individuals within the justice system whether a judge or a jury member can use many excuses to victim blame and downplay the crimes of the offender.

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Rushton, G. 2015, Two 12-Year-Old Boys Have Been Charged With Raping A Girl, Buzzfeed,, viewed 1/9/2016

The screenshot featured is taken from a recent news article about the rape of a 6 year old girl by two 12 year old boys in a Northern Beaches high school. Many of the comments in the article had an outraged, critical tone, skeptical that the Australian justice system would issue any punishment. However one comment seemed to encapsulate the issue in a somewhat unexpected and horrifying manner. The author of the comment downplayed the actions of the two boys and shifted the blame towards the 6 year old girl. Whilst the sheer ignorance of this comment is appalling, his mentalities are very much well and alive in the legal handling of sexual assault. These attitudes, whilst easily condemnable on an online platform, occur on a much more subconscious level, where those that perpetuate such ideologies do not even realise the problematic nature of their words and actions.

It is for this reason why I would like to confront the legal system and its role in gender based violence. Currently people with minor drug offences receive longer sentences and are convicted more often than sexual assault offenders. I especially want to highlight this juxtaposition in a potential design response. Such a project requires the techniques of data visualisation to highlight the disparity but to also connect this aspect of gender based violence to the mass number of assaults that go unreported. I want the user to realise that the constant judicial downplay of sexual assault contributes to the lack of reports made by sexual assault victims.



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