Let’s Talk; Sexual Assault asks hard questions about violence on campus

Let's Talk; Sexual Assault flyer outside Hoff Theater.
SEE presents Let’s Talk; Sexual Assault in the Hoff Theater Tuesday night. Activists Annie Clark and Andrea Pino spoke about the need to change how campuses address sexual assault.

Activists Annie Clark and Andrea Pino spoke to students Tuesday night about the need to create change regarding sexual violence on campus at Let’s Talk; Sexual Assault presented by SEE in the Hoff Theater.

Both Clark and Pino are survivors of sexual assault at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which led them to be co-founders of End Rape on Campus and featured in the documentary “The Hunting Ground.”

During the presentation, they shared their individual struggles trying to report cases of assault. After the two connected through a reporting program Clark established on campus, they began working together to get the university to acknowledge their cases.

In 2013, they both filed a complaint against the university. Since then, there has been a spotlight on how universities handle sexual assault has been in the spotlight, and “over 200 cases have opened following our complaint,” Pino said.

In their presentation, Clark and Pino said one in five female students and one in 16 male students have experienced sexual assault, and highlighted which groups are especially at risk.

“Really women of color are more impacted by sexual violence,” Pino said.

“Fifty percent of transgender individuals are targeted,” Clark added. “That number is unfathomable.”

According to the University of Maryland Student Sexual Misconduct Report for 2015-16, the prevalence rates for either degree of sexual assault since coming to this university is 18.3 percent for females, 5.3 percent for males and 21.2 percent for transgender/queer students.

Clark and Pino also brought up the point that some individuals never come forward about their experience because they are afraid or unsure about the available resources.

“There’s a lot of fear, and that fear is very real and valid,” Clark said.

Others echoed how little attention sexual assault may get, and how sometimes it is not taken seriously.

“It’s actually a shame when you hear the women’s stories of how their rape gets swept under the rug,” said Brittany Carty, a junior criminology and criminal justice major. “It’s frustrating to watch and to hear about.”

“I have some friends that have been in that situation and I feel like they didn’t get enough justice for it,” said Christine Lechoco, a junior sociology major. “It’s an issue that’s looked over too easily.”

The presenters explained several useful laws to protect students in cases involving sexual assault, including Title IX, the Clery Act, Title II and Title VI. However, it can be difficult for students to access resources provided to them through these laws because “it often ends up as this scavenger hunt around campus,” Clark said.

Clark and Pino said many times when survivors do come forward, they are betrayed by the institution for not believing or taking them seriously.

“That second betrayal, that’s even worse than the assault itself,” Pino said. We need to create an environment where “survivors feel supported first rather than blamed first.”

The presenters said that the current environment has been shaped by years of conditioning through socialization and how sexual violence is portrayed in the media.

“There is so much that is underlying that is often invisible” to hold up this narrative of violence in the media, Clark said. These causes take the form of micro aggressions or TV show plots where women are assaulted and become heroes as a result.

In order to change “we have to ask these hard questions,” Pino said. “Is my university committed to supporting all survivors? Do students feel safe coming forward?”

Senior criminal justice major Ty Mooney said it’s important for these dialogues to be happening on campus so that everybody is educated on the issue.

“I think it’s important for other students to hear victims’ perspectives and stories,” he said.

Clark and Pino ended by reminding students that activism is a continuous process.

“You don’t have to be like us to be an activist,” Pino said. “There are little things every day you can do.”

“This happens every single day,” Clark said. “It’s about a lifestyle.”

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