Video response to rape case touches a nerve, and goes viral

It was finals week of winter term, and Samantha Stendal was in a procrastinating mood.

She also was troubled and frustrated by coverage of the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case.

Some media and online commentators expressed sympathy for the two high school football stars convicted of rape. Others suggested the victim, a 16-year-old girl who was drunk at the time, brought it on herself by drinking so much.

So with the help of some friends, Stendal created a 27-second video response directed to “the Steubenville rapists...or any rapists out there.” Within hours, the video went viral; in the two weeks since,  the video has been viewed more than 2 million times on YouTube.

In The video, titled “A Needed Response,” a young man talks to the camera while a young woman lies passed out on a couch behind him.

“Hey bros, check who passed out on the couch. Guess what I’m going to do to her,” he says.

He leaves the room and returns with a pillow, a blanket and a mug of water.

Looking back to the camera, the young man says, “Real men treat women with respect.”

Stendal, 19, a sophomore from Sammamish, Wash., studying cinema studies, said she did not expect such a huge response to her video, nor was that her intent.

“Everything I saw was negative,” she said. “I wanted to put something out there that was positive.”

She asked her friend and fellow cinema studies student Aaron Blanton to help produce the video; she ran the camera, he did sound. They recruited their friends, Justin Gotchall and Kelsey Jones, to appear in the video. They shot it on Wednesday of finals week, edited it Thursday and posted it to YouTube in the early morning hours of Friday.

“I did not expect it to get as large as it did. It was a complete surprise,” she said.

One early key to its virality: Blanton submitted it to the Upworthy Facebook page, which features “awesome, fun, interesting videos and graphics about stuff that matters,” and Upworthy posted the video on its wall. “That was the launching point,” Stendal said.

As people shared it on Facebook, including actor Zooey Deschanel, the video quickly reached 300,000 views on YouTube.

Stendal soon found herself deluged by phone calls from reporters and producers, wanting to talk to her about the video. She was interviewed by regional and national media outlets, including CNN, NPR, the New York Daily News and the Huffington Post. In addition, she was interviewed by, or had her video posted by, news outlets in Canada, Australia, France and England.

Stendal said she thinks the video touched a collective nerve because it was topical, addressed a controversial topic, and was short and to the point.

Stendal, who wants to pursue a career in the film industry, said, “This is extremely cool for me. This is exactly what I want to do — make films that get people talking.”

Tim Christie