Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Film on college sexual assaults to be screened in Vallejo

(Originally published in the 3/15/16 edition)

   The Benicia-Vallejo American Association of University Women will be partnering with SafeQuest Solano to present a free screening of the Academy Award-nominated documentary “The Hunting Ground,” which addresses the growing issue of sexual assaults on college campuses. 
   “The Hunting Ground” was directed by Kirby Dick, who had previously received Best Documentary nominations for “Twist of Faith” and “The Invisible War.” After exploring cases of sexual assault in the military in the latter film, the director was inspired to make another documentary focusing on sexual assaults within another American institution: its own colleges. The film focuses on Andrea Pino and Annie E. Clark, two former University of North Carolina students who claimed they were raped while enrolled in the school and filed a Title IX claim against UNC after not feeling supported by the college. The documentary also discusses other incidents at several well-known universities, including Harvard, Notre Dame and Florida State University.
   The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015, and an edited version aired on CNN in November. In addition, an original composition by Lady Gaga titled “Til it Happens to You” received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.
   SafeQuest Solano, a nonprofit organization that provides for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, had purchased a DVD copy of “The Hunting Ground” and partnered with Benicia-Vallejo AAUW to present a free public screening at Touro University in Vallejo. 
   “What we’re both interested in is prevention,” AAUW Program Coordinator Jacqueline Crawford said. “The only way we can prevent things is if we’re aware of what the problems are, what the red flags are and how to ensure our safety is protected.”
   According to a 2015 survey by the Association of American Universities, 23 percent of female college students said they experienced a form of unwanted sexual contact. However, a 2014 survey by the Department of Justice noted that 80 percent of rape incidents went unreported to the police. 
   Crawford hopes the documentary will let students who are caught in such circumstances know what their rights are.
   “If we’re unfortunately a victim of sexual assault, we should know what we can do about it and how we can get college campuses to provide support,” she said. 
   Crawford said she was very moved by Pino and Clark’s campaign to end sexual assaults on campus.
   “It’s very moving to see how these two young women banded together to start a movement going from campus to campus,” she said. “Of course, the Internet helps. They can put their information out there, and people respond.” 
   Although the cases of sexual assault against women are greater in number and thus get the most attention, Crawford says the problem extends to men as well. 
   “This is not a problem just for women,” she said. “Men are assaulted also, and there are men talking in the film as well.”
   Crawford says the event will address potential victims and how they can prevent such incidents and discuss the culture of college campuses that might influence young males to act a certain way. 
   At the screening, AAUW will talk about its goals and introduce the film, SafeQuest Solano will have a presentation on its prevention programs, and a question-and-answer session will follow the film.
   “I’m certainly hoping they have a better understanding of what the issues are, what the red flags are and therefore be able to identify the dangerous situations for themselves and to avoid them,” Crawford said. “If they are unfortunate enough to have experienced sexual assault, they should know they have every right to report it and obtain support services. Education is what we’re all about, and education is power.”
   “The Hunting Ground” will be screened at 6:30 p.m., Monday, March 21 at Farragut Inn, located at 1310 Club Drive on the Touro University Campus on Mare Island. For more information on AAUW, visit beniciavallejo-ca.aauw.net

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