An ad campaign used mock college acceptance letters to tell a disturbing story about sexual assault

Ad week

College acceptance letters have been rolling out over the past few weeks, eliciting joy and excitement from many high school seniors.

But an ad campaign in the Harvard Crimson aimed at raising awareness about sexual assault on college campuses is casting a shadow on the joy that accompanies acceptances letters, Ad Week reported.

The ad campaign, produced by Goodby Silverstein & Partners and Prettybird, starts its acceptance letter similarly to how such letters typically begin.

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“On behalf of the [redacted] community, I would like to congratulate you on your acceptance into the University of [redacted],” the mock acceptance letter begins. “We know that you will make lifelong friends and memories here on campus.”

But the letter then transitions using much more shocking language:

We’re sorry that one of those memories will include you being raped by someone you thought you could trust. The claims you will make against your rapist will be ignored, much like your right to feel safe at school. After all, you can’t expect us to expel someone on the basis of a story that begins with “I had been drinking.”

The ad takes aim at the troubling number of women who report they were sexually assaulted on campus. Last year, one survey of 150,000 students at 27 US colleges found 27.2% of female college seniors had experienced unwanted sexual contact at some point during college.

The ad also seemingly takes a swing at colleges and universities for not doing enough to help victims of sexual assault. It comes as schools have begun to face mounting pressure to be more responsive to sexual assault and also to help prevent it.

Across the US, colleges have been struggling with how to respond to cases of sexual assault. As of last April, 106 colleges were under federal investigation for allegedly mishandling sexual assault cases. The Department of Education launched the investigations to determine if the schools violated Title IX — the federal law that prohibits gender discrimination — in their responses to sexual violence cases.