KnowNo raises awareness about sexual consent

The phrase “no means no” has been in the press in recent months as headlines involving sexual assault have been more prevalent. The problem on college campuses is especially disturbing, which is why several creative directors at MARC USA in Chicago have launched an initiative to raise awareness around what "no" means as it relates to sexual consent.

The “KnowNo” campaign comes in time for colleges and schools to begin new semesters and it is meant to spark conversations between parents, friends, young adults and students and help provide clarity on the issue of sexual consent.

In the “KnowNo” video spot, several women and a man are lying in beds or on couches in public places, seemingly passed out next to a sign that says “If I can’t say no. I can’t say yes.” It is set to the track of “Till It Happens to You” by Lady Gaga and Diane Warren, who donated the use of the music to help spread the KnowNo message.

It’s the first piece in the launch of the campaign, including the website, The site features information on what consent means, a quiz called “Do You Know No?”, and ways to spread the word and get involved, including taking and posting selfies with the #IKnowNo hashtag on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

“While some people claim consent is a gray area, when you read the legal definition state by state, there’s really no grayness – it’s very clear. ‘No’ means ‘no’ at any point. Just as important, if a woman – or man – can’t say ‘no,’ due to intoxication, unconsciousness or any other reason, they can’t say ‘yes’ either. So, the answer again is ‘no,’ ” explained Stephanie Franke, Creative Director at MARC USA Chicago and KnowNo co-founder.

Snake Roth, MARC USA Chicago Executive Producer and KnowNo co-founder, added, “With 50 per cent of campus sexual assaults taking place in the first three months of the school year, we wanted to start conversations when we can have the most impact – both for prevention and to help those already victimized. Sadly 80 per cent of sexual assault victims never come forward or get help because they aren’t sure if they were at fault.”

The initial KnowNo video was shot in public locations throughout Chicago in July and elicited highly emotional responses from bystanders. MARC USA will conduct additional events on several campuses in September. However, Franke explains, “When we heard that Brock Turner is being released on Friday after serving just three months, we couldn’t wait a moment longer. We want to be part of the dialogue and help young men and women truly know ‘no’ so that they can make better decisions in situations that can have lifelong consequences.”

Roth describes KnowNo as a movement, not an organization. “Quite simply, we asked ourselves if people understood consent, would they still make the same choices? Would a young person under the influence find the sense to stop? Would a victim realize it was not her or his fault, and report the incident? So, we are asking the country to help us spread the word.”

In addition to an extensive outreach campaign to social influencers, a PSA version of the video has been created and will be available for TV and digital use. A variety of out-of-home showings are also in the planning phase.

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