When you witness an injustice, remaining silent or acting as a bystander is an active choice that is an impediment to justice. Speaking out and taking action are the counterpoints. The modern Civil Rights Movement would not have had the impact it did without thousands of individuals who spoke out and acted nonviolently to gain equal treatment under the law. More recently, the #MeToo movement’s power stems from individuals choosing to name and hold accountable those who perpetrate sexual harassment and violence. In both examples, the key factor in overcoming oppression and exploitation is breaking silence in the face of injustice.
In this lesson students will have the opportunity to examine the consequences of remaining silent specifically in relation to sexual violence and rape. Classrooms will watch curated segments from the acclaimed documentary Roll Red Roll, analyze in small groups a variety of perspectives involved in the case and identify moments when silence could have been broken. Students will then look at individuals who did intervene as model upstanders and reflect by writing proactive and prosocial steps they can each take to prevent, intervene, inform others and work toward ending sexual violence and rape culture.
Important Note to Educators
Roll Red Roll is a film about a sexual assault that occurred and can be difficult to watch and talk about, regardless of whether you or someone you know has been affected by violence. The film and lesson also include explicit language. Bringing these elements into a classroom conversation and sharing and processing this information requires a strong culture of respect and trust.
To prepare yourself and your students for this lesson:
● Watch all the film clips suggested for this lesson prior to screening them in your classroom.
● Review the Resources section of this lesson and familiarize yourself with the recommended organizations and materials from the Discussion Guide for Roll Red Roll.
● Refer to and/or print and distribute the Important Terminology sheet at the end of this lesson and use it as a reference for yourself and your students. These terms and definitions can provide language for the class to use when discussing the film and the topics covered.
This lesson also offers two days of engagement, depending upon the grade level and preparedness of your students.
➔ Lesson: Students will view Clips 1 through 3, discuss a variety of perspectives and complete a reflective writing exercise.
➔ Extended Learning: Students will view Clips 4 and 5, discuss the choice of complicity by many peers and critically examine how technology added to the violation by bringing the crime to the “public square” of social media. If incorporating day two film segments, please pay particular attention to who is in your classroom.
By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
● Define verbal and non-verbal consent
● Identify societal factors that enable silence, bystander behavior and complicity to be acceptable when sexual violence and rape occur
● Identify individual and collective steps to prevent sexual violence
● Explore the words and actions of upstanders in the film as prosocial models of prevention and action through structured dialogue groups
● Write out specific steps each person can take to inform, intervene and act to eliminate rape culture
GRADE LEVELS: 10–12
English/Language Arts, Health, Media Studies, Psychology, Women’s and Gender Studies.
Roll Red Roll and the crimes that occurred in Steubenville, Ohio have strong echoes in many current and historical periods and in literature. Some suggested texts include The Scarlet Letter, Their Eyes Were Watching God andI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
● Film clips from Roll Red Roll and equipment on which to show them
ESTIMATED TIME NEEDED
● Lesson requires at least two class periods, 50 minutes each.
● Extended Learning requires one additional class period.
Assign Homework the Night Before
- Distribute Handout One: Film Summary and Director’s Statement by Nancy Schwartzman
Have students read the film summary and the director’s letter and underline words and phrases they would like to discuss the next day, particularly those related to challenging silence. Remind students to write their questions in the margins of the letter.
Day One: Opening (10 mins)
- Write “boys will be boys” on the board. In pairs, have students discuss their understanding of this phrase. What stereotypes come to mind? What behaviors would they list to describe this mentality?
- Transition from the discussion to debriefing their homework reading, Handout One: Film Summary and Director’s Statement by Nancy Schwartzman. Have students share their questions and reflections. Allow time and space for students to discuss before showing Clip 1.
Activity (40 min)
Watch Clip 1 (10:59 mins)
After viewing, break class into five groups and assign each an identity:
- The blogger, Alexandria Goddard
- The boys at the party
- The men in town
- The parents
- The girl on the frisbee team
PrintHandout Two: Clip 1 Perspectives and cut the statements from the clip into strips. Hand these strips to each group. (Be aware this film clip contains mature and explicit language)
Read assigned perspectives and have small groups discuss and answer the questions below. Have each group choose a spokesperson to synthesize their discussion and report out to the larger group.
● According to your assigned person/people, what happened at the party?
● What aspects of our larger culture do you think influenced their ideas and their reactions to the assault?
● How did the actions and beliefs of your assigned person/people contribute to or prevent sexual assault from happening? If they were to act in a way that might prevent it from happening again, or stop it from happening, what might they do or say differently?
● We don’t hear from Jane Doe throughout the film. What distinguishes this conversation from one that focuses on the survivor?
Discuss in large group:
● What is your understanding of the way being on a team, the importance of sports and the historical norms of Steubenville influenced what happened on the night of the party?
● On their social media posts during and after the party, the boys called what happened “rape.” Some seemed to use the word in a way that addressed the situation seriously as a crime, and some used it in a way that seemed like they didn’t take it seriously.
➔ For the boys who didn’t see what was happening as a crime, what do you imagine is their definition of consent?
➔ For the boys who understood that what was happening was wrong, what do you imagine is their definition of consent?
Opening: Reviewing Terms (15 mins) Have students refer to the Important Terminology sheet.
Consent: Each state has a different definition of consent. You can check on your state’s definition here. Or, as a class, discuss the following definition of consent as defined by the University of Michigan. Using this definition, did the boys at the party have the consent of Jane Doe?
Consent is a clear and unambiguous agreement, expressed outwardly through mutually understandable words or actions, to engage in a particular activity. Consent can be withdrawn by either party at any point. Consent must be voluntarily given and may not be valid if a person is being subjected to actions or behaviors that elicit emotional, psychological, physical, reputational, financial pressure, threat, intimidation, or fear (coercion or force). Consent to engage in one sexual activity, or past agreement to engage in a particular sexual activity, cannot be presumed to constitute consent to engage in a different sexual activity or to engage again in a sexual activity. Consent cannot be validly given by a person who is incapacitated.
Rape and Sexual Assault: What is and isn’t rape? What is and isn’t sexual assault?
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network): “Rape is a form of sexual assault, but not all sexual assault is rape. The term rape is often used as a legal definition to specifically include sexual penetration without consent. For its Uniform Crime Reports, the FBI defines rape as ‘penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.’ To see how your state legally defines rape and other forms of sexual assault, visit RAINN's State Law Database.”
Activity (20 mins)
Watch Clip 2 (4:21 mins)
Discuss as a large group these questions:
● Did anything in this clip change how you think about what happened to Jane Doe? If so, what changed?
● In what ways do you think the culture of Steubenville contributed to the women at this rally either keeping silent, or not being believed about their own experiences? Do you think Steubenville’s culture is similar to your own community’s? Why or why not?
● Given the controversy around what happened to Jane Doe, do you think the fears and concerns of the women who stayed silent before were reasonable? Why or why not?
- Bystanders and Upstanders
Introduce the idea of a “bystander” as a person who knows about or witnesses an injustice but says nothing, and an “upstander” as a person who knows about or witnesses an injustice and chooses to act. The choice to act as a bystander or as an upstander is complex. Take some time to discuss with students the circumstances, dilemmas and consequences that may result in watching an injustice and not taking action.
Watch Clip 3 (8:30 mins)
Have students write down moments from the clip when someone either a) acted to prevent or stop the assault and prevent further harm, or b) acted in a way that normalized this crime, allowing the perpetrators to feel that what they did was acceptable.
Debrief after the clip by asking students to briefly share examples of both kinds of behaviors.
The following are quotes from people in the film. In small groups, ask students to discuss what the quote reveals about “bystander” and “upstander” behavior.
“If she was my friend, like if she was my close friend, then I would take the extra step and make her stay, but you know I can’t do that, so I just let her do what she wants. Which, I understand, was wrong.” - Farrah, girl who was at the party and saw Jane Doe was drunk
“Well, yeah, I had to testify in court. It was terrible because it was my really good friends involved... You know, quite often I just wish I was with my friend Trent the whole night and nothing would’ve ever happened. The love and care I have for my friends, I just didn’t want to see them in any bad situations. And I just wish it never happened.” - Shawn, Trent and Ma’lik’s teammate
“I’ve been blogging for a long time, usually about true crime cases. Not everything is as it seems. If something stinks, I’m going to be the first person that calls it out.” – Alexandria Goddard, crime blogger who initially exposed the boys’ social media posts
“It’s more about the culture that contributed to the rape in the first place. If someone who’s really important to your school or your town or your football team is accused of something, there’s always going to be a lot of people coming to their aid to explain what happened or what didn’t happen. If people knew about this in April, if teachers knew about it, if coaches knew about it, if a principal knew about it, if parents knew about it, why was nothing done about that?” – Rachel Dissell, reporter who revealed the incident from the previous April
Closing Exercise: Reflective Writing (10 mins)
For the closing exercise, ask students to write reflectively about Roll Red Roll, and how the film resonates with their experiences in their own communities and school culture.
Suggested writing prompts:
What are pathways for boys and men to challenge general thinking about masculinity, accountability and male leadership? What pathways invite them to be changemakers on this issue?
In what ways does centering perpetrators, bystanders and witnesses in this dialogue shift the conversation?
What are ways to build a culture of connection and accountability within a school or other community?
After completing this writing exercise, refer to the Resources section at the end of this lesson for students to explore organizations and resources to learn more or seek out support.
Extended Learning: The Role of Technology, Social Media and the Law
Overview for Extended Learning
An important topic in Roll Red Roll is the power of technology and social media to both inform and further perpetrate the crime of sexual assault and rape.
It is important after viewing each clip to allow students some personal time to process what they have heard in the film. Invite students to journal in silence about their thoughts, feelings, reactions or questions for a set amount of time. Transition from this reflective exercise to small groups where they can discuss what is on their minds. Recommended discussion prompts are also provided.
Begin the Day Two lesson by brainstorming students’ background knowledge on the laws violated in Roll Red Roll. Do not correct their ideas at this point, but transition to watching the two final clips from the documentary. Explain that these two film segments contain explicit language and reference rape, and remind students of strategies for self-care. Pages 10 and 11 in the Roll Red Roll Discussion Guide offer further recommendations.
Watch Clip 4 (3:55 mins)
Suggested Discussion Prompts:
● Do you think Nodi was confused about the crime that was being committed?
○ If you think he was, describe where his confusion lay.
○ If he was not confused, why did he participate, or enable it to happen?
● After watching this clip, how would you describe “rape culture”? How do you see rape culture in action in Nodi’s behavior?
● Without cell phones and social media, what would have been different about the assault and crime, the trial and the aftermath in the community?
Watch Clip 5 (6:59 mins)
Suggested Discussion Prompts:
● What are your reactions to the boys receiving immunity in exchange for their eyewitness accounts?
○ Is this a limitation of our justice system?
○ What suggestions would you share to change these laws?
● What is your understanding of the phrase “blaming the victim”?
○ What are examples that support your understanding?
After watching and discussing these film segments have students:
● Write their definitions of the term “sexting,” share them and give one example each of what is and isn’t sexting.
● Discuss their definitions and examples.
● Share information about state laws regarding sexting. Each state varies, so it is important to research your local laws.
Here are some helpful resources to consider:
- Sexting Advice for Teens from Cyberbullying Research Center https://cyberbullying.org/sexting-advice-for-teens.pdf
- Overview of State Sexting Laws
● Write a pledge articulating steps to transform our culture and society so that accountability, respect, intervention and speaking out against any violations are the cultural norms of your school and community.
● Research how social media can play a prosocial role in preventing sexual assault and present these models in class.
● Allow students time to explore independently the resources included in this lesson.
(From the Roll Red Roll Discussion Guide)
The official website for Roll Red Roll, where you will find information on upcoming screenings, how to host screenings in your own community, opportunities to take action and more.
FOUNDATIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT SEXUALITY AND HEALTH
Scarleteen is an independent, grassroots sexuality and relationships education and support organization and website, founded in 1998. Visit for information on understanding abuse and assault, help getting out of danger, understanding consent, learning how to advocate for yourself and self-care tips.
FOR MEN LOOKING TO GET MORE INVOLVED IN VIOLENCE PREVENTION
The mission of 1in6 is to help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences live healthier, happier lives. It was founded in 2007 in response to a lack of resources addressing the impact of negative childhood sexual experiences on the lives of adult men.
A Call To Men works to promote a healthy and respectful manhood and shift attitudes and behaviors that devalue women, girls and other marginalized groups. It is a great resource for violence prevention education and training and promotion of healthy manhood.
HeForShe is a United Nations global solidarity movement for gender equality and provides models of ways to take action in your community.
It’s On Us is a national movement to end sexual assault that was launched following recommendations from the White House task force to prevent sexual assault. The campaign combines innovative creative content and grassroots organizing techniques to spark conversation on a national and local level.
Men Can Stop Rape is an international organization that mobilizes men to use their strength for creating cultures free from violence, especially men’s violence against women. Find a local Men Of Strength (MOST) club, for mobilizing young men to prevent sexual and dating violence.
MenChallenging offers resources for taking action and making that action as effective as possible.
Promundo is a global leader in promoting gender justice and preventing violence by engaging men and boys in partnership with women and girls. Check out the group’s “The Man Box” report for data on young men’s attitudes, behaviors and understandings of manhood.
Men Stopping Violence organizes men to end male violence against women and girls through innovative training, programs, and advocacy. Visit for resources, internships, trainings, and other opportunities to learn strategies to create safer communities for women and girls.
INITIATIVES GEARED TO COLLEGE AND HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
This organization provides a blueprint for change to the current win-at-all-costs sports culture and promotes the use of sports to foster human growth.
A project of Advocates for Youth, Know Your IX is a survivor- and youth-led initiative that empowers students to end sexual and dating violence in their schools.
GET INVOLVED WITH ROLL RED ROLL’S NATIONAL PARTNERS
Breakthrough is a global human rights organization working to drive the cultural change we need to build a world in which all people live with dignity, equality and respect. It works to change the attitudes and assumptions around gender that lead to violence and discrimination.
For survivors in higher-ed seeking support: End Rape on Campus works to end campus sexual violence through direct support for survivors and their communities; prevention through education; and policy reform at the campus, local, state and federal levels.
For parents and survivors: This organization started as a social media campaign using the hashtag #IHaveTheRightTo to bring safety and respect to all cultures. As an organization, it promises to be a safe place where survivors and families of survivors can come to find support, belief, advocacy and community.
A collaborative initiative dedicated to ending sexual violence in one generation, Raliance strongly believes that sport is a critical partner in preventing sexual and domestic violence, both on and off the field. Visit the group’s website to learn about strategies and programs to support your sport community to prevent sexual and domestic violence.
RAPP is a program of the NYC Human Resources Administration and partners with high schools across New York City to provide critical teen dating violence prevention and intervention. There are three provider partners within RAPP: STEPs, Day One and Urban Resource Institute (formerly CADV). The program provides trauma-informed individual and group counseling, classroom workshops to educate school populations on relationship abuse, professional development for teachers and school staff and community outreach.
SafeBAE is a survivor founded, teen led organization that educates middle- and high-school students about healthy relationships, dating violence and sexual assault prevention, affirmative consent, safe bystander intervention, survivor self-care and survivor rights under Title IX.
For safer athletic communities: This organization (which uses the hashtag #SetTheExpectation) is dedicated to combating sexual and physical violence through education and direct engagement with coaches, young men and boys in high school and college athletic programs.
This program of Edwin Gould Services for Children and Families offers services for victims of gender based violence and focuses on prevention, intervention and policy advocacy.
Vital Voices was created to make space for women to be heard through investment in community leaders worldwide.
The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA) provides leadership, vision and resources to rape crisis centers, individuals and other entities committed to ending sexual violence. CALCASA works through a multifaceted approach of prevention, intervention, education, research, advocacy and public policy
GET SAVVY ON YOUR MOBILE DEVICE
Circle of 6 is a White House award–winning mobile safety app designed to reduce sexual violence. It is currently used by over 350,000 people in 36 countries. It was created by Nancy Schwartzman, Director of Roll Red Roll.
@JDoeJustice is a fairly new platform for anonymously reporting sexual misconduct to stop repeat offenders.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR SURVIVORS
Support specifically for LGBTQ folk.
Community support for black women.
National hotline providing a wide range of support.
Private and secure online hotline.
Every year for Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center runs an Instagram photo challenge to harness the power of social media for education and awareness raising. Encourage students to participate in this initiative.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.
Common Core National Standards for English/Language Arts
Anchor Standard: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantita- tively, as well as in words.
Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person's life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.
Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.
Speaking and Listening
Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.
Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the task, purpose, and audience; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and overreliance on any one source and following a standard format for citation.
Content Knowledge: (http://www2.mcrel.org/compendium/) a compilation of content standards and benchmarks for K-12 curriculum by McREL (Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning).
Language Arts, Standard 1: Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process.
Language Arts, Standard 2: Uses the stylistic and rhetorical aspects of writing.
Language Arts, Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes.
Language Arts, Standard 9: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media.
Theatre Standard 5- Understands how informal and formal theatre, film, television, and electronic media pro- ductions create and communicate meaning
Visual Arts Standard 3- Knows a range of subject matter, symbols, and potential ideas in the visual arts. Benchmark: Understands how visual, spatial, temporal, and functional values of artworks are tempered by culture and history
Civics Standard 29- Understands the importance of political leadership, public service, and a knowledgeable citizenry in American constitutional democracy.
Health Standard 10 - Understands the fundamental concepts of growth and development
Health Standard 11: Knows health risk factors and techniques to manage and reduce those risks
The NHES are written expectations for what students should know and be able to do by grades 2, 5, 8, and 12 to promote personal, family, and community health. The standards provide a framework for curriculum develop- ment and selection, instruction, and student assessment in health education.
Students will comprehend concepts related to health promotion and disease pre-vention to enhance health.
Students will analyze the influence of family, peers, culture, media, technology, and other factors on health behaviors.
Students will demonstrate the ability to use interpersonal communication skills to enhance health and avoid or reduce health risks.
Standard 5: Students will demonstrate the ability to use decision-making skills to enhance health.
Standard 7: Students will demonstrate the ability to practice health-enhancing behaviors and avoid or reduce health risks.
Students will demonstrate the ability to advocate for personal, family, and community health