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Key figures from ‘The Hunting Ground’ promote activism and awareness

| Friday, September 11, 2015

Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, co-founders of End Rape on Campus (EROC) and featured figures in “The Hunting Ground” — a documentary released this past spring that highlights the issues of sexual assault on college campuses — gave a presentation called “A Culture of Commitment: Everyday Activism and Supporting All Survivors” at Saint Mary’s on Thursday. The event was sponsored by the Saint Mary’s Department of Gender and Women’s Studies.

Pino and Clark began their talk with a moment of silence in honor of all those who have lost their lives as a result of sexual assault, including Saint Mary’s student Lizzy Seeberg, who committed suicide five years ago Thursday. Both women then shared their personal stories of sexual assault.

Clark said she was sexually assaulted by a stranger. She said despite the common misconception that most rapists are strangers, her case is actually rare and most sexual assaults are committed by people close to the survivor.

Clark said she decided to seek resources to help her, not for adjudication, but for personal healing and well-being.

She said she was blamed for her assault and was told to look back and see what she did wrong and what she could have done to prevent it. Clark said this led her to start a program for survivors to report assaults anonymously and to seek help.

Unlike Clark, Pino said she was assaulted by someone she knew. She said she was involved in educational programs on the issue of sexual assault and believed she knew how to handle cases properly until it happened to her.

“I thought I knew what my resources were, and I thought I knew what the signs were,” Pino said. “But I didn’t when it came to me because it’s not what we think it is. It’s not strangers. Sometimes it is a person who could also get your degree. Sometimes it is a person in your class.”

Pino said she reported through the system that Clark had created, and this showed her she could help better the way campus sexual assault is handled even as a student.

“I still wear my UNC class ring,” Pino said. “To us, being Tar Heels meant holding our school accountable. It meant that we had to push for a better Carolina because the Carolina way could not be the Carolina way if students were being assaulted and not graduating.”

However, Clark said it can be difficult to effect change because of resistance from university administrations.

“A lot of time, administrations are scared,” Clark said. “Really, what we want to do is make sure that everyone knows their rights, that you’re working with your administration. Because if you love something, you have to hold it accountable, which is what we were trying to do.”

Clark also said the problem of sexual assault is not confined to any one college, but rather is characteristic of campuses across the United States.

“This isn’t a one-campus problem. UNC is actually a microcosm of a national epidemic,” Clark said. “It’s not just Harvard or Yale or Notre Dame or UNC. It’s actually the same thing everywhere, and we need to do something about it.”

They then went into detail about the legal proceedings regarding campus sexual assault. They said Title IX gives students access to equal education, which covers sexual assault because those incidents impede survivors from receiving equal education.

The Clery Act is another important piece of legislation that requires universities to report on-campus crimes and send timely warnings to students, they said.

They said the Campus Save Act also requires campuses to report crimes in addition to including an adjudication process for interpersonal violence and stalking. Finally, they talked about the Title II act, which grants survivors access to resources if they suffer from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or other psychological problems after their assault.

The two women went on to talk about what students can do to participate in activism pertaining to sexual assault on campuses.

“There needs to be some clear, outlined understanding of procedures between Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame and Holy Cross,” Clark said. “That just needs to happen because students are so transient among those three campuses. Also, I would find allies … and work with them on these issues.”

“What we call ‘Everyday Activism’ is the radical notion that everyone can play a part in ending violence and oppression by resisting rape culture, supporting survivors and challenging our institutions,” Pino said.

She said it means not only challenging schools but also challenging other institutions such as the criminal justice system and the overall society that sees women as disposable objects.

Students can partake in this activism, Clark said. She said self-care and self-preservation are important as a particular form of activism.

Both she and Pino said believing survivors and making sure survivors knows that they are not alone is crucial to addressing the problem.

“Believing survivors is radical,” Pino said. “It seems to be the only crime in which no one is believed; It’s always alleged. It seems as if sexual assault never happens. Really, believing survivors, sharing the stories, believing those who come forward — that itself is radical. … We need to hold others accountable.

“When someone comes forward and tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted the first thing you should say to them is you believe them, the second thing you should say is they’re not alone and the last thing you should say is it’s not their fault. These are oftentimes the three things survivors never hear.”

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About Nicole Caratas

Nicole is a senior English Writing and Humanistic Studies double major at Saint Mary's College. Now a senior news writer, she previously served as the Saint Mary's Editor. She was born in real Chicago but grew up in the suburbs, and she currently lives in Opus Hall.

Contact Nicole