’13 Reasons Why’ Gives a Message on Sexual Assault

A scene from the series "13 Reasons Why"

By Yaasmeen Piper

Staff Writer

It has been nearly five years since I’ve read Jay Asher’s “Thirteen Reasons Why,” and the new Netflix adaptation left me feeling as broken as before. The series follows Clay Jensen as he listens to cassette tapes recorded by classmate Hannah Baker, who killed herself just weeks earlier, and she explains the thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life.

When the trailer hit social media it seemed a bit watered down. I was worried the series would shy away from the vulgarity that was shown in the novel. I was never more happy to be wrong.  The adaption produced by Selena Gomez, showed images of suicide and two rapes scenes that were just as raw as high school can be.

The first scene involved Bryce, portrayed as the “golden boy” to his peers and even the school staff, raping a nearly unconscious Jessica, and old friend of Hannah’s, while Hannah watched hidden in the closet. The scene showed Bryce pulling down Jessica’s underwear and slamming into her as she lied still on the bed. Even when she started to regain consciousness and tried to get up, he pushed her down until he felt he was finished.

Bryce’s second attack was to Hannah, just days before she committed suicide. He pinned her against a hot tub and took advantage of her. Hannah tried to fight him off but eventually her body went limp and the life drained from her eyes. She was done fighting.

“I’d lost control,” narrated Hannah, played by Katherine Langford, over the cassette tapes. “And in that moment it felt like… I was already dead.”

The episodes were presented with a warning so some of the viewers could opt out if they were not comfortable.

There were times I wanted to turn away but I couldn’t and that was the point. Those scenes were supposed to make the audience feel uncomfortable. We were put in Jessica and Hannah Baker’s shoes. We were violated and did not have control over our own bodies. The audience had front row seats in watching someone’s life slowly slip away.

“I wanted the guys to feel uncomfortable when they read it,” Asher told Buzzfeed. “Both the book and the TV show made a point of noting that Hannah never says no, because that’s what we always hear, right? ‘When a girl says no, she means no.’ But there are plenty of times when a girl’s afraid to say no for various reasons, and it doesn’t mean, ‘Oh, as long as they don’t say no, then everything’s fair game.’ You need to be a better person than that.”

Seeing Hannah not only be assaulted, but have to see her rapist be adored by everyone in her school, filled me with so much anger as it was supposed to. There are millions of Hannah’s and Jessica’s around the world but not everyone has to have the same fate as them.

“It’s comfortable,” said Asher, “but that’s okay. It needs to be.”

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