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When it comes to the big leagues of socio-political photojournalism, there are a select handful of artists whose photographs have sparked a revolution. Although you may not have heard of Nick Ut and Dorothea Lange by name, their photographs of children fleeing a napalm attack and a mother living during the great depression respectively have stayed with our society for decades. An up-and-coming photographer, Yana Mazurkevich, has the same passion for capturing the trauma of human destruction. This college junior is the creative mastermind behind a viral rape cultural campaign.

Earlier this month, Stanford University rapist Brock Turner was released from prison after only serving three months, a mere fraction of the original 12 years proposed by the court. The decision to let Turner off with a light sentence has sparked outrage across the country, from inspiring victims of sexual assault to express the ramifications of their own experiences, as well as a petition to disbar Judge Persky, which reached over 900,000 digital signatures. The Internet hasn't stopped to take a breath since the trial went viral. Now, photographer Yana Mazurkevich has decided that it’s about time that someone stands up to rape culture.

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Mazurkevich is a photography and cinematography student at Ithaca College and made headlines upon releasing a provocative photo campaign reacting to the Brock Turner trial. Her first viral project is entitled “It Happens” and it was first published on a website called Current Solutions, which is an online platform which seeks to educate the general public about issues surrounding gender inequality, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault.

“It Happens” is a campaign which illustrates the diversity of rape victims and emphasizes that sexual assault can happen to anyone, anywhere, and at any time. Each photograph features a model within a staged act of sexual assault and the photos are unified by the same blank stare spread across the models’ faces. The cast of models represents a broad spectrum of different races, genders, and situations; some of which reference notable sexual assault cases such as the Brock Turner and Steubenville cases.

In addition to the photographs, which detail different circumstances of sexual assaults, Current Solutions also includes the stories of sexual assault survivors, which were submitted to them anonymously. Both the photographs and the personal accounts aim to shock you, to provoke an emotion out of an audience, which attempts to inspire conversation surrounding the consequences of rape culture. While the incidents of sexual assault that Mazurkevich’s camera captures may have been staged, they tell the stories of millions of individuals who have had similar experiences and have been victims of rape culture.

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Rape culture is a term that was established during the 1970’s in an attempt to demonstrate how society blames victims of sexual assault through the media, the court system, and traditional gender roles. The movement against rape culture seeks to emphasize the leniency that the general public has toward male violence and female sexual subordination and educate the masses about the hidden reality of sexual assault. By including both female and male models thrust in varied instances of sexual activity without consent, Mazurkevich points out that as a society we have turned a blind eye to the suffering and trauma of millions of victims. Society has ingrained into our minds that alcohol is the key perpetrator in many rape cases and that if the rapist and/or the victim are intoxicated then the case should not be judged with the same severity as other sexual assault cases.

Rape culture has illustrated to the masses that if you’re white and privileged with an athletic scholarship to a prestigious university that you should not be held accountable for your actions, therefore receiving minimal punishment for your crimes. By having her models looking directly at the camera, Mazurkevich works to humanize and individualize the millions of sexual assault victims whose voices and experiences are silenced by rape culture and this is one of the reasons why her campaign has garnered national attention. The raw, exhausted, stoic faces of the victims indicate that no matter how loudly they scream and no matter what they say in their testimony before a jury: justice will not hear them.

Current western culture has ingrained into our minds that alcohol is the key perpetrator in many rape cases and that if the rapist and/or the victim are intoxicated then the case should not be judged with the same severity as other sexual assault cases. Rape culture has shown us that if you’re white and privileged with an athletic scholarship to a prestigious university that you shouldn't be held accountable for your actions, therefore receiving minimal punishment for your crimes. By having her models looking directly at the camera, Mazurkevich works to humanize and individualize the millions of sexual assault victims whose voices and experiences are silenced by rape culture and this is one of the reasons why her campaign has garnered national attention. The raw, exhausted, stoic faces of the victims indicate that no matter how loudly they scream and no matter what they say in their testimony before a jury: justice will not hear them.

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In addition, in the creation of the  “It Happens” campaign, Mazurkevich and Current Solutions have embarked on other artistic projects in response to Brock Turner’s case. On June 26th, the photographer unveiled a project called “Dear Brock Turner”, which features models holding signs highlighting popular explanations that many women present for being put into situations of sexual assault. The models are all wearing bras and the images feature some form of an attacker from beyond, along with clouds of colorful pigments added for emotional and artistic emphasis to the piece.

Both “It Happens” and “Dear Brock Turner” feature victims of sexual assault in beautiful, yet uncomfortably provocative circumstances, grabbing our attention in a way that an article is unable to accomplish. We don’t want to see the images presented by Mazurkevich because they are shocking and disturbing, yet somehow we can’t look away. It can be expected that with the huge success of Mazurkevich’s two social political campaigns that she will continue to explore activism through photography and we can’t wait to see how she tackle’s issues surrounding rape culture next.

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