Switching the Way We View Sexual Assault

Switched at Birth tackles the issues that come with sexual assaults on college campuses

by Marina Alvarado (Staff Writer) – 4/13/15

A promotional photo taken of the Kennish-Vasquez family
A promotional photo taken of the Kennish-Vasquez family

ABC Family’s show Switched at Birth finished its fourth season which focused on the sexual assault of the show’s main character, Bay Kennish, on a college campus; concurrently, UCLA faced its own sexual assault scandal, raising questions about the safety of college campuses.

The fourth season of Switched at Birth discusses the sexual assault of Kennish (Vanessa Marano) by friend and former fraternity member Miles ‘Tank” Conroy (Max Adler) on the University of Missouri, Kansas City campus. As the season progressed, the assault was brought to school officials, and the season ended with him being expelled from the university. During the course of the season, UCLA faced allegations of one of their own students being assaulted at a nearby fraternity. Both the name of the victim and the name of the fraternity are withheld in police reports.

“Honestly, it’s kind of sad because the season had to have been filmed months before and then it actually happens. It’s one thing for it to happen to fictional characters, but when it happens to actual people it reminds you how real it can be and that it can happen to anyone,” says junior Emily Ontiveros, who is a longtime fan of Switched at Birth.

Similar to the way that Kennish was too intoxicated to completely remember what happened on the night of the assault, in the UCLA case, the victim was incapacitated during the assault. Showing the assault and following Kennish’s life after it occurred can remind people that she was a person and shows how much an event like the assault can uproot someone’s life. Not everything is as black and white as a court case can make it seem.

“I think [the episode] is going to stir up a lot of conversation — positive, possibly, and probably negative. But what was really important to us was to stir up a conversation,” adds Marano during an interview with TV Guide.

While the season did stir up conversation, it may not have been a good idea as viewing numbers steadily decreased over the course of the season, with the first episode having 1.29 million viewers while the last episode had 1.06 million viewers, a substantially lower number.