On average, one in six American women will be sexually assaulted in her life according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. With a statistic like this, it’s clear that it’s important for college campuses to educate students on sexual assault. The Mock Rape Trial, which was presented by the Women’s Resources and Action Center and the department of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, was meant to be educational for students, staff, faculty and community members.
“It’s really important in general to get information out to students and faculty, date rape, etc.,” Nate Twedt, a Women and Resource Action Center intern, said.
Because of last year’s reaction, the Women and Resource Action Center thought it would be a good idea to host another trial this year.
“The realities of an actual trial are often misunderstood due to inaccurate or sensationalized media presentations of rape victims, perpetrators of rape, and rape trials,” read the pamphlet handed out at the trial. Also on the agenda was to educate those in attendance about the judicial processes and laws related to rape and sexual assault, resources available to victims of such crimes, and the prevalence of sexual violence.
The trial focused on whether the defendant, Jesse, had raped the plaintiff, Tina, after a night of partying. UMD students Jacob Fazzio and Cassie Liberkowski played the parts, respectively.
Prosecuting attorney Kristen Swanson’s main argument to convict Jesse was that Tina had been under the influence of alcohol, which means that she was incapable of giving sexual consent. Defense attorney Laura Zimm argued that this was a case of buyer’s remorse: Jesse and Tina had sex, and then Tina regretted it.
When preparing for his role, Fazzio said that he had to take a moment and examine his own beliefs.
“The experience is humbling, and makes you look at yourself,” Fazzio said. “I'm an actor, so what I do comes from experiences or feeling that I have inside of me. I'm not saying I've ever done something like that, but putting myself into a mindset where I could have makes me both angry and vulnerable. As Jesse, I felt angry and betrayed by Tina, and hurt at the same time because it could have happened.”
Along with Jesse and Tina, two other people were called to the stand. Tina’s roommate, Tiffany, and Jesse’s friend, Lucy, also testified in the trial. These parts were played by Kirstyn Harasyn and Amy Ruth, respectively.
At the end of a trial, Judge Sally Tarnowski would normally have allowed the jury to deliberate. In the mock trial however, the jury used a show of hands to indicate if they thought Jesse was guilty or innocent. A majority of students said guilty.
Harasyn said that this event is important for everyone to attend.
“This is such an important event to not only have students attend, but every single American citizen,” Harasyn said. “I am very passionate about justice for survivors of sexual abuse.”
The freshman theater major added that educating people about sexual assault now may lead to more educated juries down the road.
“It is sad how many disgusting abusers are acquitted because juries are uneducated,” Harasyn said. “I think educating the public at an early age has a huge impact and understanding as to how these crimes work.”
BY APRILL EMIG