VCU “RAPISTS DESERVE TO DIE” banner sparks social media wild fire, plagiarism claim

by | Oct 20, 2013 | ART

A large two story banner stating “Rapists Deserve to Die” is currently on display inside the front windows of the VCU Fine Arts Building on the 1000 block of West Broad Street.

A large two story banner stating “Rapists Deserve to Die” is currently on display inside the front windows of the VCU Fine Arts Building on the 1000 block of West Broad Street.

The bright yellow banner with large bold lettering sparked a wildfire on social media today, but the message had been around for some time in the form of smaller stickers placed around campus, and the creator of that sticker campaign has cried fowl on the massive banner.

Jessie Bevis, a 21-year-old VCUarts major, created the banner and said it was a response to the original sticker campaign.

“I saw one of them one day and it kind of pushed me back, I was shocked by it,” Bevis said, who described herself a survivor of sexual assault. “It really struck a point for me, so I decided to do a response piece to it. That’s why I blew it up super large, so it would catch a larger audience that way.”

Anna Tregurtha, also a VCUarts student, said she is the original creator of the sticker campaign which she began putting up around town at the end of summer 2014.

Tregurtha said she is also a survivor of sexual assault and the sticker campaign is deeply connected to her experience with that act of violence.

Since Bevis’s display went viral, however, Tregurtha has filed a plagiarism claim with VCU’s administration, saying the fellow Fine Arts major stole her work.

When Bevis began construction of the banner two weeks ago, before VCU’s Spring Break, Tregurtha said she used a friend to reach out and get in touch with Bevis to discuss the project.

“At first I was extremely excited about it,” said Tregurtha. “I was excited that someone had seen these things I had made and felt inspired by them.”

“I wasn’t thinking of it as plagiarism then,” said Tregurtha. “I feel like I got tricked into not taking action previously.”

Tregurtha said she never heard from Bevis, and after the banner went up yesterday, she contacted administration members of the VCU Fine Arts department and made the claim.

Bevis said her goal was to create something large, choosing the massive open windows of the Fine Arts Building because it is an easiest place for her to get permission to display it.

“It’s in the center of campus, its the biggest window on campus,” said Bevis. “All the students walk by there so everyone would be seeing it.”

When seeking permission to put up the banner, Bevis did not tell anyone what it was going to say. She said she only relayed “fire code information”.

Bevis has done other work related to sexual assault and rape in the past. Before the banner, she focused on performance pieces.

“I am in full support of survivors,” said Bevis when asked about the charge of plagiarism. “I am not trying to silence her, but make a voice for everyone.”

“I had no intentions of hurting her, but rather gain an ally,” she said. “I’ve always said that it started with Tragurtha.”

The banner was designed to only be up for a brief period of time- the piece is supposed to come down tonight at midnight.

Tragurtha and Bevis are set to meet with school officials tomorrow to discuss the plagiarism charge.

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner

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