Poignant Lecture Focuses on Ending Sexual Violence

News Story: September 23, 2016
Andrea L. Pino, left, and Annie E. Clark

Two women, whose traumatic stories were featured in the Oscar- and Emmy-nominated documentary The Hunting Ground, were at Sacred Heart University this week to discuss sexual violence on college campuses.

Andrea L. Pino and Annie E. Clark, presented the lecture “We Believe You: Centering Survivors and Creating a Community of Accountability” at SHU’s Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts. Pino and Clark are co-founders of the nonprofit End Rape on Campus and are alumnae of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Both experienced sexual violence during their college careers.

Before Pino and Clark began their slideshow presentation, senior Kelly Donovan and junior Cory Robinson, from SHU’s Student Wellness Education and Empowerment Team, had some words of advice for their peers. “It’s up to us to shape the culture in our community,” Robinson said.

“We want a culture of respect to be the norm,” Donovan added.

Clark thanked the audience for being there. “I know it’s a difficult topic to talk about, and I’m really glad you’re here in this room.”

Each woman briefly described themselves. Clark said she was an athletic, straight-A student who was excited to go to UNC but, unfortunately, within the first few weeks of her college experience was sexually assaulted. She had a hard time focusing on her schoolwork after the assault and a few weeks later went to a health professional who blamed her for the incident.

Pino said she had a similar experience. She said getting into UNC was life changing, and she couldn’t wait to get involved on campus and continue her studies. “I thought I knew my campus. When it (sexual assault) did happen my sophomore year, I didn’t know what to do,” she said. Pino said she kept it to herself for a long time, and when she did talk about it, she too was led to believe it was her fault.

Clark and Pino explained the statistics surrounding sexual assault, noting that one in five women and one in 16 men will experience sexual assault in college, which, in some cases, could be seen as a form of hazing. While there are laws, like Title IX, that ensure male and female students are treated fairly and don’t face discrimination while receiving their education, sometimes schools don’t follow through with protection, Pino and Clark said. Sometimes schools don’t report incidents, or they report the incidents incorrectly. Some schools don’t change the victim’s residence hall or make a class schedule shift so the victim feels more comfortable, Clark said. This can lead to an array of issues, including a victim dropping out, she said.

Some victims may develop mental health issues after being assaulted, Pino added. Under Title II, a law that is suppose to protect people with disabilities, schools are supposed to provide the necessary accommodations to victims, but again, this doesn’t always happen.

While awareness of sexual violence is important, Clark and Pino believe there needs to be accountability. “We need to hold institutions and peers accountable,” Clark said.

Education needs to start early on, Clark said. The media needs to do a better job of not glamorizing sexual assault in TV and movies, and people need to tell others that using words like “rape” in everyday conversations is not okay.

Pino and Clark ended their hour-long talk with some words of advice for any survivors of sexual violence who may have been in the audience. Three main points showed up on the large screen: 1. It’s not your fault. 2. You are not alone and 3. We believe you. “If you never heard that before, you’re hearing it today,” Pino said.

At the end of the lecture, SHU’s Title IX coordinator, Leonora Campbell, told the audience that she takes her job at the University very seriously and if anyone has questions about something they’ve experienced or someone they know has experienced, they can talk to her. “We provide many services, and we want you to be successful here at Sacred Heart,” Campbell said.

The program was part of the 2016-2017 Student Affairs Lecture Series.

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