Clark, Pino speak at Legends
Margaret Hynds | Monday, September 14, 2015
Friday afternoon at Legends of Notre Dame, Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, co-founders of End Rape on Campus (EROC), spoke to students, faculty and community members about sexual assault at Notre Dame.
Pino and Clark, who were featured prominently in the CNN documentary “The Hunting Ground” directed by Kirby Dick, spoke at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s last week as well as Indiana University at South Bend.
In addition to the two women’s stories, the documentary also includes the story of Lizzy Seeberg, a Saint Mary’s first-year who committed suicide in September 2010, ten days after accusing a Notre Dame football player of sexual assault. Last spring after its debut at Sundance Film Festival in 2015, the documentary was screened at both Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s, sparking intense discussion of victims’ rights and resources on both campuses.
The two women’s involvement with the campus sexual assault prevention began after each was assaulted at the University of North Carolina during their undergraduate career there. After exhausting all other options, Pino said, the two filed a Title IX lawsuit in 2013 along with three other women against UNC.
Of their transitions from survivors to advocates, Pino said in the early phase of the complaint the two women had no legal training, and as a result had to learn as they went.
“We really just learned from the books that we had read in our classes,” Pino said. “… I was taking a Women’s and Gender Studies course and also a political course that looked at feminist political theatre. It was only looking at Catharine MacKinnon that I realized that I had rights from Title IX. It was actually written in my course material, and I was like ‘cool.’”
She said that the two only became involved in “The Hunting Ground” through a coincidence when the filmmaker visited UNC’s campus to promote his documentary “The Invisible War.”
“Kirby Dick was actually doing a tour with his previous movie on military sexual violence, and one of my residents when I was an RA went to the screening and said, ‘You have to listen to what’s happening to my RA. She’s in the [New York Times], you should read it.’ And he actually reached out that same evening,” Pino said. “It was only a few weeks after we had filed our complaint, so we’ve been working with Kirby since the very beginning. … We were working on the film for two years, so from when I was a junior in college up until Sundance.”
Both women emphasized, however, that the documentary was not the extent of their advocacy work, but rather an instrument through which to bring the issue of campus sexual assaults to the forefront of the public’s minds.
“[The documentary] is a great tool, but it’s not the only one,” she said. “We have different organizations and also this film, but that doesn’t mean the work is over. And so we don’t want it to just be screened on campuses and then just to say that’s the end, but it needs to be a conversation starter”
Professor Abby Palko, associate director of the gender studies department, said she as a faculty member and her students felt unsure of how to best go about combatting a campus culture that allows sexual assault to happen.
“What can they do to impact campus culture so that everyone understands — and buys into — the idea that rape isn’t tolerated?” she said.
Playing off the fairly unique residential life at the University, Clark said ending rape culture begins with supporting all members of the community.
“This seems very obvious, but supporting one another and supporting people when they come forward,” she said. “I know there’s some tensions or rivalry I guess between Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame, but making sure that if a Saint Mary’s student comes and shares something with you that you support that person, and doing the same with your fellow students here at Notre Dame.
“We’ve heard a lot of survivors in the time we’ve been here say that as soon as they’ve come forward they’re quickly shamed or ostracized. They don’t want to go by certain [dorms] because they’re made to feel uncomfortable. I really think that supporting survivors when they come forward, and also doing little things every day to have this conversation, to engage in prevention. Even if there’s somebody who just makes a rape joke in one of your classes — it’s calling that out,” she said.
Speaking again to campus cultures, Clark spoke to the importance of support networks that extend beyond simply the current student body — particularly alumni of University because of the financial relationship they have with the institution.
“Alumni have a lot of power, particularly with schools like Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame where there’s such a tie,” Clark said. “There are sometimes families who just keep going. They have a responsibility, too, to hold their school accountable.”
To that end, Pino she said she saw a vital connection between students but also faculty and staff, whose institutional memory far exceeds that of students who only spend four years on campus. The communication of past and present individuals involved in the University community would allow for expedited change and a sense that victims are not alone in what they have experienced, she said.
“I’d like to add to that the importance of mentorship between older students and younger students, faculty and alumni is so important and valuable,” she said. “Oftentimes we don’t see that. … It’s very difficult to hold the institution that you love accountable. But it’s even more difficult if you don’t know what’s going on, what has been going on. It’s looking beyond the four years. It’s looking at what happened eight years ago.
“We have much more of a knowledge because we had each other’s experience, we had those that had come before us. So we knew it wasn’t just a problem for us, we knew it would continue to be a problem because it had already continued.
“Sexual assault prevention requires a community of students that are on the ground, but also those who have left and have much more experience.”