Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame continue to respond to ‘The Hunting Ground’
Haleigh Ehmsen | Thursday, September 10, 2015
After screening “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary that highlights sexual assault on college campuses across the country, at both Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s last spring, conversations about sexual assault have continued and sparked action.
Kirby Dick, director of the documentary, said he has been impressed with the way both schools have responded to the film.
“I have been very impressed with the way Saint Mary’s and President [Carol Ann] Mooney have had multiple screens of the film and invited the film’s subjects, Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, to speak at the school,” Dick said.
“We made this film not only to promote national awareness, but to give individual schools a tool to help undertake reform, and Saint Mary’s has courageously utilized the film to help initiate the reform process,” he said. “I also applaud Notre Dame’s choice to screen the film on multiple occasions, and to not react defensively, as so many schools around the country have in the past.”
Dick said students are the key to keeping this conversation alive and eventually ending sexual assault on campus, but administrators must also take an active role.
“More than any film, any committee, any report, student survivors and activists are the key to a school successfully confronting this issue,” Dick said. “It may not be the most comfortable thing to do, but if presidents, deans and boards of directors meet regularly with and listen to the experiences, concerns and recommendations of survivors and activists, they will come away with a much deeper understanding of the school’s problems and potential solutions.
“I know President Mooney has done this and I am hopeful that Father Jenkins, if he hasn’t already, will avail himself of this uniquely important opportunity.”
Dick said the choice to include Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame in the documentary came after investigating hundreds of stories of sexual assault on campuses across the country over a nearly two-year period.
“Nearly everyone was so powerful that it alone could have been the basis for a feature length documentary,” Dick said. “Rachel’s story, about a young woman who was deeply involved in the rich religious tradition of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s, is profoundly heartbreaking and was included because it raises important questions about what happens when an institution does not live up to the values it espouses.
“Lizzy Seeberg’s story, about her assault and subsequent suicide, was included because it conveys not only how traumatic an assault can be, but how the wrong response from an institution can impact a survivor even more than the assault itself. Her story shows how, in many cases, these are truly life and death issues.”
Saint Mary’s director of media relations Gwen O’Brien said the documentary struck a chord with students and the College has responded.
In addition to receiving the Notre Dame crime alerts, Saint Mary’s students have been invited to join Mooney’s Presidential Task Force.
“The sexual assault of college women and men is an injustice, and institutions must take great care to not further injure the survivor,” O’Brien said. “The President looks forward to what the Task Force brings forth as ideas for change.”
O’Brien said the Presidential Task Force, made up of students, faculty and staff, will examine the issue of sexual assault and look for potential problems with how the College responds to reports and survivor needs. By May, a report will be issued of their findings and action items.
Collective voices create change, she said.
“Dialogue has always been an important aspect of a Saint Mary’s education and listening to each other can only bring clarity,” O’Brien said. “President Mooney’s administration, the Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO) [and] other offices on campus work hard every day to support students who have experienced sexual assault move through the process of reporting and healing.”
The most noticeable change on Saint Mary’s campus so far are the stickers on mirrors throughout campus aimed at simplifying the process of who to turn to if a student survives a sexual assault, she said.
The gender and women’s studies department (GWS) is hosting Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, who were featured in “The Hunting Ground.” Clark and Pino will be speaking at Saint Mary’s tonight at 7 p.m. in Carroll Auditorium.
Stacy Davis, chair of the GWS department, said after “The Hunting Ground” screening in April, students increased their efforts to assist survivors of sexual assault and decrease the number of assaults. It’s important for students interested in activism around the issue of sexual assault to attend the talk tonight, she said.
“Because Andrea Pino and Annie Clark were also student activists, our students can learn from their stories and receive added inspiration for their own work,” Davis said. “Students will hear about how their peers at other schools have successfully used Title IX complaints to improve campus climate and make the judicial process more equitable.”
Davis said Pino and Clark will speak about “Everyday Activism,” a term they have coined in establishing their non-profit organization End Rape on Campus.
“‘Everyday Activism’ encourages people to do the seemingly small things that can facilitate a survivor’s recovery, such as being there to listen or taking notes for someone who needs to be away from their class on a particular day,” Davis said. “It also includes working to improve campus climate and culture through engagement with organizations such as Belles Against Violence and participation in the Green Dot program.”
Editor’s Note: Associate Saint Mary’s Editor Alex Winegar contributed to this report.