Written by S. Bowyer

 

      

 

     Rape and sexual assault on university campuses is said to be common, some schools in the United States having over 200 complaints per 5 years, some students being re-offenders. However, many victims claim the treatment of victims and perpetrators are not as reliable. A new revolution began during 2014, which all began with two university women, Andrea Pino and Annie Clark.

     In the documentary, The Hunting Ground, we are introduced to both victims-turn-liberationlists, who spoke about their experience. Their actions have caused a US nation-wide investigation into over 100 college campuses and their treatment of rape reports.

 

 

 

 

     Andrea Pino was the first of her family to go to college and was excited by history and law studies. She was invited by a friend to a party early in her freshman year, where she danced with a guy. Being a virgin, she was not prepared for what would happen next. She was taken to the bathroom at the party and raped.

     "I found out later that I wasn't the only one raped that weekend, but at the time, we didn't talk about it because it was something nobody talked about," she confides.

     Annie Clark, a straight A student and soccer player was socialising with friends during her orientation weeks in freshman year when she was attacked. Classes had not yet started yet and she was enjoying meeting new people. She left the party briefly to talk to a guy outside, when he held her against a wall and raped her.

     Pino knew what had happened and thought best to ignore it, however, felt she was starting to change. She felt turmoil within herself, then developed nightmares of being attacked where she would wake up bleeding from her neck where'd she'd tried to throw her dream attacker off and instead cut her neck up. Clark also tried to ignore what had happened to her, but felt it was draining. It was when a friend of hers asked how to report a rape, as she had been raped on campus too, that they found the difficulty in reporting the rape.

     Many rape victims, particularly those who mask what happened, will suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They can suffer panic attacks, sleep disorders, depression, uncontrollable crying episodes, social avoidance, insecurity around unknown people, particularly people who resemble their attacker. Some students even commit suicide, as was the case of Lizzy Seeberg, who was sexually assaulted by a football player at Notre Dame college. Her father spoke on her behalf in the documentary, and told of the bright, effervescent girl his daughter had been.

     College students speak in the Hunting Ground documentary about their experiences in reporting rape, very few coming away with positive results. The responses from administration staff were considered questionable. Male rape victims said how confronting admitting it was, facing the stigmas of being gay and their vulnerability.

      • ♦  Crystal Giokas was questioned on how much she drank on the night of her rape.
      • ♦  Sarah Bedo was lectured by staff about going out in short skirts and drinking.
      • ♦  Iman Stenson was questioned how many times she'd told the perpetrator no, and what she had been wearing.
      • ♦  Sofie Karasek said administration didn't return her call for seven months.
      • ♦  Jamie Lester confides the only actions administration took were against her, the victim.
      • ♦  Ryan Clifford was advised to drop out of school for a year for it to blow over.
      • ♦  Alexa Straus reported her incident to get no response. When she went to follow up, she was told they had forgot.
      • ♦  Wagatwe Wanjuki said her school were more concerned with the perpetrators rights.
      • ♦  Hope Brinn said administration made the excuse that the perpetrator was just having some adjustment issues at the time.
      • ♦  Alexandra Brodsky had written admission of guilt from her attacker, but was still told that she didn't have enough evidence, and all the notes showed was that he had loved her.

         It's estimated 88% of women sexually assaulted on campus do not report, and that schools are not publicly reporting the attacks. In 2012, 45% of colleges reported zero sexual assaults, according to the Washington Post. However, other surveys have stated that as many as 16% of college women have reported sexual assault, tabulated from multiple studies held.

         So what are the numbers when women actually speak out? How many result in punishment for the perpetrator. Studies were done and the results were somewhat concerning:

     

    University Name Dates tabulated Reported Rapes Resulting Expulsions
    Harvard 2009-2013 135 10 suspensions
    Berkeley 2008-2013 78 3 expulsions
    Dartmouth 2002-2013 155 3 expulsions
    Stanford 1996-2013 259 1 expulsion
    North Carolina   136 0 expulsions
    University of Virginia 1998-2013 205 0 expulsions

    - in Univeristy of Virginia, 0 expulsions for assault, but 183 expulsions for cheating and other honor board violations

     

         So where can young people turn if the system is protecting the perpetrators, and some say, their own interests to encourage further public funding by avoiding reporting rapes and becoming known as a rape school.

         In her second year, Pino felt it was time to speak up. She had suffered her nightmares long enough and honestly thought the school were unaware of this hidden epidemic. Forming the Courage Project, she encouraged people to speak of rape and what experiences they had gone through. Nine people came forward in the first 4 weeks. She tried for meetings with deans and authorities, and requests were delayed or ignored. Clark began to work with Annie, who was now a senior, and Melinda Manning, Dean of their school, began to assist their cause.

         It was during their research of rape instances across other campuses, trying to fill out a US map with hot spots of campus rape to ascertain the regularity of such events, that they came across Title IX. Title IX, an educational amendment of 1972, is described by the American Department of Justice as,

         "a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. The principal objective of Title IX is to avoid the use of federal money to support sex discrimination in education programs and to provide individual citizens effective protection against those practices. Title IX applies, with a few specific exceptions, to all aspects of federally funded education programs or activities. In addition to traditional educational institutions such as colleges, universities, and elementary and secondary schools, Title IX also applies to any education or training program operated by a recipient of federal financial assistance."

         Under this title, or expectation, Pino and Clark discovered that sexual assault could be included. The school had an obligation to ensure students' safety from sexual assault. Schools found by the Education department to refuse this right, or not fully support it, could be investigated and removed from receiving funding. In other words, the schools could be held accountable for the sexual assaults they do not report or act on if the Education department deem their response not in accordance to their laws. A school without funding is an empty parking lot. More amazingly, to lodge a complaint against a school does not require a lawyer. Students can lodge either in a class action or solo reports. Forms to lodge complaints are found on the US Department of Justice website.

         Pino and Clark knew what they had to do. They looked for students in other schools who had also been raped, using online social networking to send out notices and requests. Students from all over the country began to email and Skype them, each one interviewed by Clark and Pino via video chat to discuss their situation, and explain Title IX. Some of their time was spent flying and living out of their car while they travelled to different campuses to meet with other young women and help them lodge their complaints. The girls met other activists such as Sofie of Berkeley University.

         Sofie stated that she hadn't seen much negative reaction to her leading the campaign at her school, until they found a website where most of the fraternity students hung out, who started talking about her. One google search lead them to the comment someone should destroy her. Pino and Clark were threatened online, focused by Internet trolls, had areas of their school vandalised, and also had students leaving knives in places they were known to frequent.

         Soon a class action was lodged with the Education department for over 100 college campuses, students stepping forward to discuss their situations and run press conferences to inform people of what was lurking in American schools. Some students even bought mattresses to carry around campus to every class to symbolise they had felt imprisoned by the silence and would continue to carry around their prop until action was taken.

         The stories and press conferences spread to local news stations, and the entire movement gained momentum.

         The large number of rapes on college campuses is said to be the fault of the environment and socio-cultural influences in University systems. One of the largest determinants are said to be fraternities. A feature of Fraternity life is often sexual competition, sexual conquests and comparisons, lots of alcohol, and frat brothers who support and protect others in deliquency. While this does not speak for all young men in college, the culture formed among frat houses is often one of sport accomplishment and special privelege due to the financial gains created by college sport and the students who are included in fraternities.

  •      This now termed as Rape Culture, that is, the cultural and presenting influences that encourage rape or sexual assault, or find ways to promote the avoidance of punishment.

         Fraternities support the functioning of a university, but helped in additional fund-raising and resources. In 2013, over 100 million dollars of funding came from frat alumni, who are ex-fraternity brothers who graduated and became financially well-off individuals of the political, finance, or high-end business sectors. The money assists in giving housing to students, supporting sporting ventures and opportunities, and adding resources to the curriculum. Additionally, fraternity names encourage long-term feelings of belonging or identity, meaning that corporate sponsorships and fame to college sporting students is increased. Some fraternities have branches in all of the major universities. 

         Unfortunately, it's believed these factors and features of a fraternity can leave some students feeling self-entitled, untouchable, and immune from social controls. These individuals seem to be the perpetrators of these crimes. While the system is not the sole cause, as there is grounds for personal responsibility too, they do aid in boosting the individual's lifestyle enough that they feel protected enough to hide from their crimes. Their celebrity status fuels their toxic behaviours because they are the winners, the popular guys, the ones that get all the perks.

         In fact, in some cases of sexual assault, the perpetrators are protected by the neediness of the sports team. An example is the case of Jameis Winston. The case of Jameis Winston was featured in The Hunting Ground, as what happens when a rape is reported against a valuable team member. Erica, his victim, was called a slut, threatened if she ruined their sports season, and was told to leave Winston alone. He was their star athlete. Erica states she was raped and went to a hospital in time for Winston's DNA to get collected from her body. The State Attorney stated it wasn't enough evidence as it could have still be consensual, and the case was dropped. Students sided with Winston, saying Erica was a liar. When Winston refused to answer questions in his interview, he was released and deemed innocent. No further investigations were made. Other cases showed that perpetrators were told they would be suspended after their final seasonal game, even after found guilty.

         By the end of the documentary, one wonders how young women can avoid getting sexually assaulted in a culture that seems to almost promote it. Over-caution.

    1. Don't drink at parties -- or drink very little.
    2. Never leave drinks unattended -- never look away from your drink for a second. Buy drinks you can use a lid and carry with you.
    3. Don't go outside alone to talk to someone. If you want fresh air, go with a few people.
    4. Go to parties with friends and stay with them. Don't separate. Don't move around a corner where nobody could see you, or you could be dragged away.
    5. Arrange your own way home. Don't take lifts. Don't let someone walk you to your sorority door alone. Go with friends.
    6. Don't go to frat house parties. Select public venues to meet up instead.

     

         The Hunting Ground can be found online at streaming sites everywhere. It delves deeper into rape and rape culture in Universities, and the reporting of a Title IX complaint. More information can also be gained from seeactstop.org and the Facebook of Annie Clark and Andrea Pino.

     

     

     

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