‘The Hunting Ground’ spreads sexual assault awareness

by SARA MARSHALL//Editor-in-Chief

[Editor’s note: This story is the fifth part of the multi-series “Violated,” examining the horrors of sexual assault that began with Issue #1 and concludes in Issue #6. Several staff members took it upon themselves to interview, take photographs, and conduct research. The results of their combined efforts follow.]

One in five women will be sexually assaulted while in college, making assault prevention a top priority on campuses nationwide.

But not on all campuses.

“The Hunting Ground” was presented by the Health and Wellness Center at South  Plains College on Oct. 4 in the Founders Room of the Student Center to spread awareness of sexual assault and provide students with more information on the subject.

It is important for students to learn more about sexual assault,” said Dr. Lynne Cleavinger, director of Health and Wellness at SPC. “It is important that we look at the biases we have grown up with as to victim blaming and start putting the responsibility on the person who is committing the rape.”

The one-hour documentary “The Hunting Ground” illustrates several incidents of sexual assault occurring on college campuses throughout the United States. The main focus of “The Hunting Ground” is on Annie E. Clark and Andrea Pino, former University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students who were sexually assaulted and treated unfairly by their school administrators after the assaults.

Together, both women filed a Title IX complaint against UNC in response to their rapes while enrolled at the university. Their use of Title IX in a campus sexual assault case has become a model for universities and colleges across the country.

I thought the documentary did an excellent job of spotlighting the issue of sexual assault on college campuses, and it also showed how victims can advocate for themselves and encourage social change,” Dr. Cleavinger said. “If we start thinking about how we can be a solution to the problem rather than minimizing the problem or thinking it will never happen to us, then we will start to see change.”

Twenty five students attended the “The Hunting Ground” documentary viewing and participated in an in-depth discussion afterwards about sexual assault and how the movie has impacted their way of thinking.

“[The Hunting Ground] gave me even more insight on how the justice system works with [sexual assault],”  said Kambrey Bailey, a sophomore education major. “People should be severely punished for ever sexually assaulting anyone.”

Many students who attended the viewing, like Bailey, were surprised by the lack of trust school administrators had in the victims. Many instances which were seen throughout the movie showed how school administrators primarily blamed the victims and survivors of sexual assaults. “The Hunting Ground” portrayed this reality as the school’s fault for trying to protect itself from legal repercussions.

Kathlene Zimmerman, hall director at  SPC, says she believes one must look out for the school just as much as the student. She strongly advocates being on the side of what is right.

“Doing what’s right means getting the closest truth possible,” Zimmerman said. “In any situation, we have to approach it objectively. We show care and concern for the student that brings an issue to us. But we always keep a level head to remember when others are involved, there are other perspectives too. When it comes to sexual issues or any type of assault, we must be more sensitive, but remain objectively level-headed as well. Everyone involved in a sexual assault situation is going to need some sort of care. Care comes in many forms, including justice and consequences.”

Beatrice Reyes, a nursing student, participated in the viewing and discussion, along with her daughter, who is a currently a junior in high school and plans to attend college soon.

“The discipline, or lack thereof, in place for the perpetrators is shocking to me,” Reyes said. “The most surprising thing for me was the two young ladies who set out to be the voice of rape victims for so many. The courage and bravery when all odds were against them was inspiring.”

This semester, sexual assault awareness has been a major priority for the Health and Wellness Center.

“I’m proud of SPC and the culture we foster for being here for the students,” Zimmerman said. “I’m disgusted by the realities that some evil is inescapable, but I’m hopeful to see how people continue to overcome the evil with good. Awareness empowers me and all college students and staff to handle situations better.”

SPC’s Health and Wellness Center is in the planning stages for spring events, including working on scheduling more viewings of “The Hunting Ground” at the Reese Center campus. If students missed this showing and wish to have it presented for a group on campus, they can call 716-2529 to discuss a showing.  Dr. Cleavinger says she wishes to work with students and create something that is tailored to SPC and meets the needs of the students.

“I always feel hopeful when people start looking at sexual assault and realizing it is a problem,” Dr. Cleavinger said. “That basic awareness, with a spark of questioning how they can be a part of the change, is where lasting cultural change on the SPC campus, in the Texas panhandle and in the United States, comes from.  I think it is amazing how two students could work so diligently to bring about awareness across our country and to start the change process.”

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