In 1992, an 18-year old woman was horrendously raped in Rome, Italy, and 7 years after the rapist walked free. The court case fueled a “jeans strike” within the Italian Parliament, as female lawmakers showcased their outrage on the steps of the Supreme Court.They protested against the “jeans alibi”-an idea that claimed tight jeans were difficult to take off and therefore indicated consensual sex. The protests sparked a global movement titled “Denim Day” which encourages all women to wear denim on April 29th each year. Founded by Patti Occhiuzzo Giggans, the day has become an internationally-recognized rape prevention education campaign.
Inspired to fight rape culture, Space to Speak was founded by a group of “ardent Generation Z students” in 2019. According to Maya Siegel, Founder of the organization, Space to Speak is “dedicated to giving youth a leading voice in the sexual prevention movement while also working to reduce sexual violence through education, service, and advocacy.” Some of their work has included working with Colorado State University to hand out 500 condoms on campus and launching the #WhyICare movement to support young survivors and raise awareness on sexual violence. Currently, Space to Speak is trying to raise $250,000 to support survivors and those experiencing domestic violence during COVID-19.
Space to Speak was also at the forefront of advocacy on Denim Day as they initiated their own robust social media campaign. The organization partnered with their new coalition: The Survivor Coalition Project (SCP). Siegel commented, “The SCP is a coalition of six mission-driven organizations (Space to Speak, Cat Calls of NYC, GenZ Girl Gang, Safe Squad Mobile App, The Phoenix Project, and Global Girlhood) united under one cause: to support survivors and those experiencing domestic violence during this pandemic. Together, we are a global network 196,000 strong and growing every day!”
Space to Speak partnered a month-long campaign with FreeFrom to raise awareness and secure 1,000 micro grants of $250 for survivors that could be used to help with rent, groceries, medicine, and other critical needs. According to Siegel, the organization also asked allies to sign a letter and make a donation. “As of June 5, over $107,000 has been raised to help over 400 survivors,” stated Siegel.
With COVID-19 restricting physical interactions, many people have turned to the digital world. Worldwide, the average time spent on digital platforms has increased 20%during the first quarter of 2020. Social media platforms, in particular, have become a critical form of communication and human interaction. Vienna Sparks, Media Director at Space to Speak, commented, “The influence of social media was essential in the Survivor Coalition Project and Denim Day campaign, especially in light of the current COVID-19 situation. I think without platforms such as Instagram, we would not have seen as much success in organizing and community engagement with the campaign.” According to Sparks, their #DenimDaySpeakOut campaign rendered a lot of success “with 74 posts using the hashtag in total and 130+ shares on Instagram.” Sparks was optimistic about utilizing social media as the primary means for growing the campaign and raising awareness.
As social-distancing measures continue to necessitate new methods for advocacy and communication, it will be interesting to see how organizations, such as Space to Speak, continue to push the boundaries of the platforms and of design. Furthermore, it is also worth wondering how the social media platforms that currently exist will continue to transform and evolve to adapt to their increasing user-base and growing demands for successful convergence of our physical and digital realities.