November 17, 2018 | ° F

The Hunting Ground screening ushers in a year-long campaign against sexual assault

At least 1 in 5 female college students will be the victim of sexual assault during their academic career, according to The New York Times. With statistics like this, higher education has come under the scrutiny of the United States government and the general public.

Rutgers University is at the forefront of the revolution to change the way universities tackle the issue of sexual assault on campus.

In light of the #iSpeak surveys and focus groups conducted last year, Felicia McGinty, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, declared a year-long campaign named “The Revolution Starts Here: End Sexual Violence Now.”

Kicking off this year filled with a broad range of programming will be a documentary screening of "The Hunting Ground," a film centered around campus sexual assault. This event will take place on Oct. 1 at 8:00 p.m. in the College Avenue Gymnasium.

“We are looking to have a culture shift in people’s understanding of sexual violence and prevention,” said Ruth Anne Koenick, Director of the Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance (VPVA).

"The Hunting Ground" follows the lives of two women, Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, who shared experiences of on-campus rape and who later became civil-rights activists, she said. Clark and Pino will be the guest speakers at the documentary screening.

“They knew there had to be a way they could challenge the school to change how they were treating survivors,” Koenick said. “They are wonderful role models for student activism.”

"The Hunting Ground" also takes a look at the experiences of women who have been sexually assaulted at various institutions, from the time they arrived at their respective colleges to the time after their assault and how their school addressed the issue, she said.

The documentary screening is just one of the events planned for the coming year. 

Koenick stressed the importance of getting students involved and encouraging them to take a stand on this issue.

“Students need to be involved in this,” she said. “One of the ways they can do that is to be a part of VPVA, get trained in prevention and become advocates for helping people to ... get the assistance that they need.”

"The Hunting Ground" heavily focuses on institutions that have violated Title IX, said Laura Luciano, assistant director of the VPVA. 

Title IX is a comprehensive federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in any federally-funded institution or activity.

In 2011, The Department of Civil Rights issued the "Dear Colleague Letter" that stipulates that failure to address sexual assault on campus is a direct violation of Title IX, and, by extension, the law, she said.

“When most people think about (Title IX), they think about sports because at the time it was heavily focused on disparity (in athletics),” Luciano said. “But at its core, it’s a gender equity law that ensures that there is a space free of harassment.”

Luciano additionally notes that because the documentary is so powerful, advocates and supporters will be available for viewers that may struggle through the screening of the "Hunting Ground."

“There will be advocates (available) to support (viewers) if they are struggling through that event, because it is a very powerful documentary,” Luciano notes.

Raising awareness on the issues of sexual assault is something that McGinty feels very strongly about. She hopes that by running all these programs, the University can foster an environment where students feel safe enough to talk about it.

“A lot of schools have been called out for hiding the issue and not talking about it. That’s the opposite of what we’re doing at Rutgers,” she said. “We’re pushing the envelope and trying to engage the students.”

McGinty said she wants to ensure that the University has a “fair, supportive, and timely” system in place to comprehensively address any cases that are brought forward.

“I don’t want anything to happen to any of my students ... and I don’t want to work at an institution that’s featured in a film,” she said. “After watching ("The Hunting Ground") I became even more committed to having this campaign.”

The University has taken this decisive step toward creating a safe environment, both on and off campus, after the White House asked them to pilot the iSpeak survey, she said.

By taking the findings that were collected from the #iSpeak survey and the focus groups, researchers were then able to tailor make a comprehensive action plan for the University, McGinty said.

Through this programming, The Office for Student Affairs hope to raise awareness about the resource available on campus as well as train the students and staff members on feeling more empowered to intervene.

“If we can help students to understand how to be active bystanders that, in and of itself, will interrupt the cycle of sexual violence,” she said.

Francesca Falzon

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Targum.