In the fall of her freshman year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Annie Clark was raped. After months of living with the secret, she came forward to UNC faculty and was then told, “Rape was like a football game, and that the next day was like being a Monday-morning quarterback where you look back and think, what would I have done differently?” No sympathy, no promise to help look into the incident, no direction on where to file a report. Just blame.
Annie’s sexual assault story is featured in the recently released documentary, The Hunting Ground, which brilliantly and bluntly educates viewers on the epidemic that is sexual assault on college campuses and the lack of response from campus administrations. They offer up a myriad of alarming statistics that leave viewers shocked, and quite frankly, disgusted. Upon viewing the film, I wanted to learn more about the documentary, and did some investigating through my best friend, Google.
Unsurprisingly, just like any emotionally charged documentary, there were articles written that ripped apart every aspect of the film, from the statistics (some claim the psychologist incorrectly manipulated data gathered to appear more aligned with his claims) to the victim’s stories. Just like Blackfish, people were coming out of the woodwork to applaud the film but also to question its validity.
After digging into the general response the film got, I spent a few days marinating on it and came to realize that I walked away from the documentary not scrambling to call up our school’s administration to demand they change their policies, or even having a clear cut opinion on the movie, but rather wondering how I could play a role in all of this. I’ve never been sexually assaulted, and no one has ever come forward in confidence to me saying they were either, so I already felt limited. However, that doesn’t mean that I, or any of you, aren’t called to action.
While the point of the documentary may have been to expose the blatant disregard a school can have for rape victims, and the unapologetic need for them to manage their PR, I had several discussions with friends and came to the conclusion that I felt led to do my part in stopping sexual assault from the beginning. Coincidently, I took part in a group project at the same time for my Public Relations class, which involved spending two months designing an infographic on sexual assault prevention on the UC Davis campus.
Through my research, I found that I, as a bystander, can possibly prevent an assault situation from occurring by becoming more aware when I’m at social events, like a party. Watching the body language of those around me is key, along with checking in with friends and others in the same space to see if they seem uncomfortable while talking to people. If you see someone getting aggressive or laying a hand on a person that wasn’t welcomed, it is your duty to step in.
Despite the flack the documentary has received, it has shed light on an extremely sensitive subject that we need to be discussing. While some may question the numbers presented, I think we can all agree that even one sexual assault is not okay. It is fine to not feel compelled to be busting down the administration’s doors; however it is integral that we all take a stand one way or another. Just as President Obama’s 2014 sexual assault prevention campaign on college campuses said: it’s on us.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please visit The UC Davis Center for Advocacy, Resources & Education (CARE), an on-campus, confidential resource for all students, staff and faculty who have experienced any form of sexual violence, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic/dating violence, and stalking. You can contact them by calling 752-3299 or emailing [email protected].