Skyline grad’s anti-rape PSA video goes viral
April 9, 2013
By Lillian O'Rorke
After handing in her blue book for her Japanese final March 19, Samantha Stendal returned to her dorm and got to work on a video that she hoped would change the conversation about rape.
The 2011 Skyline High School graduate is now a sophomore and cinema studies major at the University of Oregon. For months, she had been following the Steubenville rape case, in which two Ohio teenagers were found guilty March 17 of raping a 16-year-old girl while she was intoxicated.
“The main thing about it was how the case was being covered by the media and the response online,” Stendal said. “Also, there was some victim-blaming online and conversations about what she could have done differently, instead of how it was a horrible event.”
To change the direction of the discussion, she set out to create a positive message. The Japanese final had been her last, and she still had several days before she would return to Sammamish for spring break.
That Tuesday in her dorm, she created a storyboard and called fellow film student Erin Blancon to see if he was interested in helping with her video. He was. It took about an hour and a half the next day, March 20, to shoot the 27-second video she titled “A Needed Response.” Stendal worked into the night editing it and uploaded it to YouTube in the wee hours of Friday morning, March 22.
“It’s very natural for me to think of making a video for anything,” she said. “I wanted to make something positive to put online and just to have something that shows an act of kindness.”
The video was picked up by the website Upworthy. By Friday afternoon, Stendal said she found out her project had already been viewed more than 300,000 times.
The following week, the video was on CNN, along with an interview with Stendal and Blancon. By April 2, more than 2 million people had watched the video that begins with a man setting up his webcam. Behind him, a woman lies on her stomach, slumped on a sofa.
“Hey bros, check who passed out on the couch. Guess what I’m going to do to her,” the man says into the camera.
Then, he slides a pillow under her head and covers the girl with a blanket, puts a mug down beside her and pulls her hair off her face with his finger.
“Just the imagery of the beginning will give you a knot in your stomach,” Stendal said. “I wanted that to be there to kind of draw the audience’s attention into the video … draw them into a nasty place and then draw them out of it.”
Before turning his webcam off, the man sits back down in front of the camera and says, “Real men treat women with respect.”
Not everyone who watched the video agreed.
“I’ve gotten a variety of responses from the video and I find them all interesting,” Stendal said. “The negative feedback can be good because it can show people that this is a conversation we need to have.”
While her video was in reaction to the Steubenville case, in which the rapists were male and the victim was female, Stendal said that her message of deserving respect is true regardless of a person’s gender.
“It’s moving away from victim-blaming and moving on to a discussion of how we should be treating someone when they are in a vulnerable state,” she explained.
David Clymer teaches video production at Beaver Lake Middle School and said this is exactly what he would expect from his former student.
“She is a very positive person,” he said. “She understands the idea of ‘don’t bring more negative attention to a thing, bring up the other, positive side.’”
Stendal took Clymer’s class when she was in eighth grade. Even then, he said, Stendal was a very creative storyteller.
“That is what her videos were known for, was an unexpected plot twist,” he said. “She is such a individualistic thinker. There is always going to be something from her that has never been seen before in terms of approaches.”
Her mother, Becky Stendal, also said she was not surprised by her daughter’s reaction to the Steubenville case, explaining that Samantha Stendal has always had a strong moral compass.
“It’s just a really simple message that is not mean spirited. It is not sticking fingers at people,” she said, adding that there were a lot of directions that her daughter could have taken the video. “Instead, it was just a really positive message that really hit home with a lot of people.”
See Samantha Stendal’s video here.