Florham Campus shows ‘The Hunting Ground’ to mark the end of Women’s History Month

Students and faculty gather to view “The Hunting Ground” documentary on March 30 in Lenfell Hall.

Students and faculty gather to view “The Hunting Ground” documentary on March 30 in Lenfell Hall.

CHRISTI PEACE

Senior Editor

Anyone who watched this year’s Academy Awards would have seen Lady Gaga’s emotional performance of her song from the documentary entitled “The Hunting Ground.” The 2015 documentary depicting the struggles of rape survivors on college campuses was screened in Lenfell Hall on March 30 as the university’s final event for Women’s History Month.

Before the film began, Sarah Azavedo, director of Campus Life operations, gave a brief introduction to the audience.

Azavedo explained that she is SART (sexual assault response team) trained. She provided information about campus resources for rape survivors, explaining that there is a Title IX investigator and first responders who will go through the process of reporting an assault with the student. She also mentioned the help that counseling services can provide, and said that students with questions can always come speak with her.

Azavedo said that more than 90 percent of sexual assaults on college campuses are committed by someone the victim knows, and that alcohol is a key factor in many assaults. She went on to say that “if a friend comes to you and says they were just sexually assaulted, you have to believe them – that’s crucial.”

Azavedo emphasized the importance of letting the victim know it is not their fault and encouraging them to report the assault to Public Safety. She also said it is important to listen to your friend whenever they decide to talk about their experience, and that students should be “aware of resources available to them.”

“The best thing you can do is to be informed about what a victim will go through, and you’re going to see that in this movie,” said Azavedo. “It’s a very powerful movie.”

The film began by showing videos of young adults finding out they were accepted into their dream colleges. But the documentary goes on to show how the positive college experiences these students expected were ruined by their traumatizing experiences with rape and the subsequent treatment they received when trying to report them to their schools.

The documentary followed the lives of Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, two survivors whose experiences led them to pursue policy changes on college campuses across the nation.

Not only did the students have no idea how to report the crime, but when they eventually figured out how to do so, their school actively tried to sweep the rapes under the metaphorical rug and discourage them from pursuing justice.

The film also included the testimonies of numerous survivors (both men and women) from various colleges, all of whom received little to no help from their schools when trying to report their assaults.

Many of the students were blamed for their own assaults, which one person in the documentary said “has a silencing effect on survivors.”

Professionals in the documentary went on to explain that college administrators cover up these assaults for several reasons. For one, colleges do not want to be perceived as dangerous if they report high numbers of assault on their campuses, even though statistics have found that one in five women will be sexually assaulted while in college. The administrators also have a financial incentive to protect the perpetrators if they are successful athletes or members of fraternities that donate to the university.

For example, one young woman shared the story of how she was severely harassed after reporting that she was raped by a college football player. Rather than face disciplinary action, the player went on to be drafted by the NFL and his fans continued to support him while calling her a liar. Several FDU students were especially affected by this story, describing the situation as “disgusting” and saying that it made them “feel sick.”

Numerous statistics were shown about the lack of expulsions for nearly all of the reported assaults on various college campuses throughout America. University employees who advocated for rape victims were also described as facing repercussions for speaking up.

The emotional toll of the survivors’ ordeals was also described, as many felt depressed and anxious afterward, and some even committed suicide as a result of the bleak outlook.

After the film, a few students remained behind to discuss the documentary and how it related to FDU with Francesca Degiuli, assistant professor of sociology, and Jordan Nowotny, assistant professor of criminology.

Some students were relieved to hear that FDU has low numbers of reported sexual assaults, while other students expressed concern that it might indicate that victims do not feel comfortable coming forward.

Many of the students felt “outraged” by what they had seen in the film and wanted perpetrators to be held accountable. Students further expressed their frustration with double standards, such as the fact that marijuana use leads to more expulsions than rape charges or the fact that fraternity members can be kicked out for revealing the group’s secrets but likely wouldn’t be kicked out for raping someone.

The students also shared their own experiences with rape culture, with some of the female students describing the measures they have to take to make sure they are safe at parties and events. The point was raised that the responsibility is often placed on women to make sure they are not raped, rather than on men to make sure they and their friends do not rape others.

Nowotny described the preventative training women receive as “target hardening,” and said that it is “a scary concept that reintroduces this culture of oppressor and oppressed.”

He went on to ask how a male group could take the lead on rape prevention education and emphasized the importance of men getting involved in helping to change the culture around sexual assault.

Degiuli also spoke of the stigma around being perceived as a victim of sexual assault, and questioned the students about their ideas on sexual consent.

The students shared ideas about how the perception and handling of sexual assault can be changed at FDU.

They wanted the school to increase its educational tactics on the matter by introducing these kinds of conversations into the classroom.

They also spoke about the formation of a group/organization that could either bring survivors together or actively work to educate the student population about the issue.

“We don’t see a lot of student movements on campus, and I would love to see something like that at FDU,” said Nowotny.

“But it has to be student led,” Degiuli emphasized. Since faculty and staff have to report sexual assaults to the school, she felt that a student group might be more effective in helping survivors who do not necessarily want to report the crime but want to talk about it in a “safe space” with people who can understand what they are going through.

Nowotny concluded by saying that they are interested in helping facilitate the creation of a student-driven working group about sexual assault in the near future. Degiuli added that any students with ideas about this subject can contact her about it.

Catryna Flores, a sophomore criminology and psychology student at the event who stayed through the final discussion, said that she found the documentary relatable and emotional.

“It really makes you want to make a change in the world,” Flores said.

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