I sat in my college dorm room completely stunned by the film Roll Red Roll. Not only was it masterfully produced, but it also gave an unfiltered and realistic view of what rape culture in high school is really like. It was difficult to see. It is horrifying to watch students act like rape is funny and rapists are cool. But even more horrifying is the fact this behavior isn’t fictional.
Roll Red Roll tells the true story of a horrific gang rape that happened in Steubenville, Ohio—in which members of a high school football team assaulted a teenage girl and bragged about it on social media; the case subsequently garnered national media attention.
Being back on campus for my junior year of college and watching this film has made me think a lot about the safety of students and gender equality on all campuses. One thing most school campuses have in common is that sexual violence is not being handled properly.
Roll Red Roll joins a body of films exploring this issue—It Happened Here, Unslut, Audrie and Daisy and The Hunting Ground all similarly use specific incidents to expose the common problem of sexual violence in our society—with the intent of raising awareness and finding solutions to the epidemic of sexual assault on campus.
It’s also the latest tool for activists looking to do this work on their own.
The national nonprofit Stop Sexual Assault in Schools (SSAIS) provides resources to help students and their allies find out what their schools are doing and should be doing about sexual harassment by providing educational videos, fact sheets, a Title IX checklist and strategies to make positive change in communities. The SSAIS toolkit is a great resource for creating this change in both public and private schools.
Although SSAIS’s #MeTooK12 movement has taken a back seat while gender equity experts have fought over the last year to address Betsy DeVos’s proposed changes to Title IX enforcement, we must focus on moving forward and working together to bring real change to end sexual violence wherever it occurs.
Roll Red Roll shows that the role social media played in Steubenville—both in the showcase of an assault and the online actions those posts inspired in the aftermath, when independent reporters and bloggers used social media to shed light on injustices, and groups like Anonymous organized for justice—is part of a larger community context. Sexual harassment and assault happen in every community, and Roll Red Roll demonstrates that rape culture can have negative and devastating consequences for everyone within one.
A film like Roll Red Roll, which shines a light on systems of sexual violence and ends the story with an action plan, is an extremely powerful tool for educating and creating the change we must have. It will leave you “seeing red”—and hopefully propel more people in every community to join the movement against violence.