Francien Baijanova
Francien Baijanova: “The aim of Talk That Talk is to encourage a dialogue between students about sexually transgressive behaviour.” (Photo: Heather Montague)

How to raise awareness about sexually transgressive behaviour? Francien Baijanova created a serious game for just that.

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“I just graduated two weeks ago with a master’s in Engineering and Policy Analysis (TPM). Prior to that I did a bachelor’s in Clinical Technology (3mE) and then I took a gap year. I biked for three months from the Netherlands to Greece and I also did an internship project with AIESEC in Uganda. It was a medicine project and I realised that clinical work was not for me. A friend of mine saw the master’s at TPM and thought the description sounded like me. They were looking for people who were a bit more broadly oriented, open minded and internationally oriented as well. I also really wanted to do something more related to complex social topics and helping people by improving policies.

I’m interested in topics that people don’t like to talk about, topics that can have very polarised viewpoints. During the first year of my master’s, I came across an article about this protest in India. Women were holding hands to create the longest human chain as a form of protest for equality and that really inspired me. I wanted to do something around sexual violence and also contribute to the women’s rights movement.

I was trying to find a way to do something with the topic of sexual violence at TU Delft and I knew that the Gamelab does a lot with complex social problems and integrates them into serious games. I contacted them and they were enthusiastic about the possibilities and that’s where it started. Then I read the report (in Dutch) commissioned by Amnesty International saying the prevalence of sexual violence amongst students in the Netherlands is really high. They were campaigning for universities and institutions of higher education to sign a manifesto promising to take responsibility, and to take action either through interventions, doing workshops, or integrating it in their education somehow. I saw that TU Delft didn’t sign it and used that as my motivation to do my thesis about sexually transgressive behaviour amongst students in universities for which I used TU Delft as my case study.

‘It’s very important that this game takes place in a safe space’

I created a physical card game called Talk That Talk. The aim of the game is to encourage a dialogue between students about sexually transgressive behaviour with the higher aim of contributing to a cultural change. The participants in the game are addressed as ‘bystanders’ and on every game card there is a scenario statement with three or four different answers. When it’s your turn, you roll the dice and pick one of five categories. Then you read the statement out loud to everyone involved and other participants choose the answer they think you will choose. Once everyone has chosen, you give your answer and explain why you chose it. Then the timer starts and discussions can take place where everyone explains why they chose a certain answer, creating a dialogue. It’s very important that this takes place in a safe space.

This game was originally developed with a group of students during the Game Design Course (TPM) and I was the client. It was initially focussed on sexism in high schools and then I adapted it to focus on sexually transgressive behaviour amongst students in the Netherlands. They helped to think of the game elements and I changed the contents. I interviewed quite a lot of people for this, like confidential advisors here at TU Delft, the Secretary of the TU Delft Executive Board, and a psychologist and a case manager from the Sexual Assault Center in the Netherlands. People can contact them with even the smallest issue related to sexual transgression, any transgression that makes you feel uncomfortable and is sexually tinted. You can reach out to them and they will offer support or advise you on what to do.

During my thesis project, there was a lot of interest in my research and game from within and outside TU Delft. For example, a theatre company called Time Out (in Dutch) that is committed to improving student well-being reached out to me. Time Out is going on tour for a year, going to universities to encourage the conversation about sexually transgressive behaviour. So now for three months I will go on tour with them and give a workshop after their interactive theatre performance where we will play the serious game. I’m also going to do some research with them about social safety amongst students. They will be here in Delft on 15 November for anyone who is interested.

Because of the amount of interest, my friends and I decided to organise an event about sexual violence during the Diversity and Inclusion week. We played the serious game after which we had a panel discussion with experts from Emancipator, Amnesty Delft and a coordinator from the Women in Delft platform. I have gotten a lot of positive responses from people that have played the game because they didn’t expect to have fun while learning about such a difficult, complex and sensitive issue. After the event some companies, professors and individuals have even expressed their interest in playing and acquiring the game. I do not have a website, but people can reach out to me on LinkedIn if they want to have it.

There is a lot of work still to be done on the topic of sexual violence, but I’m glad there is more awareness about sexual violence in our community and that I could contribute to it during the past year. Now, I will be looking for a full-time job and I’m really interested in jobs related to other sensitive or uncomfortable topics.”

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