New Documentary Soundwalk / App, Consent, Guides Users Through The Snelgrove Trial

The podcast app is designed to allow users to walk through downtown St. John’s, listening to dramatic readings of edited transcripts of the 2017 sexual assault trial of RNC officer Doug Snelgrove.

Consent: Walk the Walk is a free podcast app that aims to educate the general public about the legal definition of consent.

Journalist Emily Deming and Battery Radio producer Chris Brookes call Consent a documentary soundwalk. The podcast app is designed to allow users to walk through downtown St. John’s, listening to dramatic readings of edited transcripts of the 2017 sexual assault trial of RNC officer Doug Snelgrove. It is also designed so you listen to it from home

Snelgrove was accused of raping an intoxicated woman after driving her home while he was on duty. At the trial, he was found not guilty, a verdict that provoked protests in St. John’s.The crown has since appealed the verdict.

Deming hopes the podcast will give users a deeper understanding of the legal definition of consent. She believes understanding the laws around sexual assault is an important first step for those who would like to see those laws changed.

Consent uses a smartphone’s GPS to trigger short segments of testimonies from the trial as users walk through the areas being described. The testimonies have been edited for brevity but also to tell a chronological story, so that listeners hear the evening unfolding as they move along the route marked on the app’s map.

Each reading is accompanied by an atmospheric soundscape that sometimes includes music, sound effects, or bits of dialogue.

Hearing actors read the curated transcripts with the soundscape playing behind them creates a visceral feeling of distress as the narrative progresses towards the incident in the complainant’s home. Having the user move through the physical landscape described in the transcripts allows for a uniquely immersive experience that Deming and Brookes hopes provokes empathy in the listener.

“I’ve been doing these GPS triggered [projects] for a while, I think of them as documentaries laid out in the landscape. You walk a route and locations trigger sound every so often when you pass a point where something happened. I think there’s a particular resonance with standing in the spot where something happened and hearing exactly what happened,” Brookes explained.

For Deming, the effect of having users walk a distance to hear each instalment of the story encourages a type of quiet introspection that she thinks people might be less likely to engage in when they read an article at home on the computer.

She hopes that giving people an opportunity to think about legal consent in this way will lead to more productive conversations about sexual assault litigation.

The soundwalk finishes at the courthouse where users can listen to final summations from the lawyers for both the crown and the defense, followed by an afterword by lawyer Alison Conway who addresses the aftermath of the trial, including the protests in reaction to the not guilty verdict.

She suggests that the justice system’s definition of consent does not adequately reflect society’s morals saying, “Ultimately our justice system, our criminal law, is a reflection of society’s morals and if our society is saying ‘we’re no longer happy with this definition of consent’ then maybe a discussion about a change in the law needs to happen.”

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