Sexual respect activism has been exploding around college campuses—driven largely by students, for students—bringing much-needed attention to ongoing problems of rape and sexual abuse, and finding new ways of raising awareness and understanding. On the UCLA forefront, the Bruin Consent Coalition and their Creative Director Syd Rein host events, survivor speak-outs, and various art projects and campaigns in an attempt to change campus policies as well as state and federal laws. Their work is decidedly “trauma-informed and survivor-focused,” and often addresses communities that are often left out of the sexual violence conversation, such as LGBTQ victims and those who identify as male.
Their latest project, Kids Should Be Kids, focuses on childhood sexual abuse. Currently, much attention is placed on sexual violence at the university level, though “40% of sexual violence victims or survivors are under the age of 18” (all statistics were procured by the BCC from the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network). BCC Co-Directors Chrissy Keenan and Ishani Patel understand the importance of talking to college students about consent and sexual violence, but tell The Creators Project, “it can’t be the first time they’re hearing these messages." “We need to talk about healthy relationships, consent, and respect to young kids, and we need to support survivors of all ages.”
Rein proudly describes the Kids Should Be Kids project thus:
“We decided on photographing items that relate to childhood and adolescence, such as dolls, party hats, sports gear, and colored pencils… I wanted the photos to feel like a nostalgic moment frozen in time but in an eerie way… The artistic decisions made in this project were very careful and deliberate as we wanted to really bring a thoughtful and respectful awareness to the issue of childhood sexual assault. We have received very positive feedback from survivors, activists, and allies alike.”
The images presented in the Kerckhoff Art Gallery are Polaroid size, reminiscent of a retro childhood, and require the viewer to step right up close to them. This makes the gallery experience very intimate and personal, but “their clean and simple design allows viewers to take in the message without feeling overwhelmed by the heavy nature of the subject material,” says Rein. This is a common theme in her work: engaging in serious and difficult topics in accessible and sometimes whimsical ways. Her previous projects for the BCC have included a photo project called Man Up?, an exploration of the effect of patriarchy on men through men’s voices, and humorous "Consent Grams" for Valentine’s Day which the BCC sold with candy and condoms (“both internal and external!” as they’re excited to share). For Consent Week, they circulated eye-catching Consent Is* graphics that educated students on what informed consent really looks like.
See more of Rein's work below: