This past Wednesday, UW-Madison showed “It Happened Here,” a documentary about five women’s experience with sexual assault on campus. The film follows college students Angie, Sarah, Kylie, Erica, and Carolyn as they tell their story and struggle through the aftermath and the damaging effects of sexual assault.
For these girls, the most harmful part of their experience was not the assault itself; rather, it was the response they got from their universities and fellow peers when they chose to talk about it. When they spoke up against rape and their attackers, these girls were met with reactions of judgement, skepticism, and blame.
A critical issue surrounding sexual assault that this film highlighted was how the universities these women attended took such inadequate measures to make them feel safe and how they didn’t take the issue of sexual assault seriously. When Kylie reported her rape to the campus police at UConn, she was told, “If women would stop spreading their legs like peanut butter, rape wouldn’t keep happening.” Carolyn wrote a letter to the president of her university condemning the culture of violence and rape at UConn. She received no response from the president and instead received violent rape threats such as, “I hope you get raped by a husky.” Erica, who was raped by a fellow co-worker, requested to have her work schedule changed to she wouldn’t have to see her rapist. Instead of accommodating her schedule, her job forced her to quit, and her attacker got promoted. Essentially, these women were not treated as victims and instead were retaliated against by authorities they thought they could trust.
Despite the blame and criticism they received, these women spoke out against the way they were treated and are making efforts to change the way sexual assault is handled on college campuses. For more information on each woman’s story and how they’re fighting for change, visit the “It Happened Here” website.
As collegiate women, it’s important for us to be aware of the issue of sexual assault and the rights we have while at college. The film discusses how Title IX is a law put in place that serves to protect women’s safety and equality while attending college, and in most of the cases of the women featured in the documentary, their universities were in violation of Title IX for failing to protect their students properly. The fact that women are raped and sexually assaulted while at college is an atrocity in and of itself. But to be blamed and denied the support they need is truly heartbreaking.
This documentary was shown as part of UW-Madison’s involvement in the It’s On Us campaign, a movement that aims to improve the way sexual assault is handled on campus and to encourage everyone to see it as their responsibility to prevent it. As students, women, and Badgers, it is our duty to protect one another and stand up against sexual assault. The University of Wisconsin is our home—let’s help make a safe one.
For information on UW rape and sexual assault support services and how you can participate the campaign, visit the UHS website.