Tag Archives: sexual assult

“The Hunting Ground”: A Horror Pseudo-Documentary on a Serious Issue

By Sabrina Schnurr

Summary

CNN’s The Hunting Ground focuses on the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses in America and the way colleges neglect to address it. The documentary seeks to highlight the roles that money and reputation play in college administrations’ choices while chronicling the journey of Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, two former students at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who filed a Title IX complaint and sparked a movement against sexual assault on college campuses. The film criticizes schools’ actions while also examining the culture of fraternities and college athletes. The Hunting Ground includes testimony from many student victims of sexual assault, as well as interviews with psychologists, authors, professors, administrators, police officers, and parents. Lady Gaga recorded a Grammy-nominated original song, “Till It Happens to You,” for the film.

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The film opens like a blockbuster thriller: a montage of high schoolers and their families happily opening college acceptances immediately sets the scene for the emotional rollercoaster to come. Even the title itself establishes fears in viewers. Dramatic images of a doorknob and bathroom tile resemble that of a crime scene remake on a television drama, and voice-overs telling terrifying stories contrast with their corresponding montages of beautiful campus scenery. All in all, the film is hard to watch. Images of fraternity signs reading “sexual assault expected” and “thank you for your daughters” land a giant knot in viewers’ stomachs, and specifically, one father’s account of his daughter’s suicide is heart-wrenching and almost impossible to listen to. In this regard, the film does what it was made to do: draw an emotional reaction from audiences.

However, this emotional reaction is then irresponsibly paired with a quick hero-ending and a weak focus on the facts. Almost instantaneously, two students at UNC transition from broken victims to national heroes taking on Title IX to solve college rape; the ending segment presents a suddenly uplifting montage of women standing up. A quick cut between the national map of reported campus sexual assaults and the nearly identical homemade map hanging in the students’ apartment serves as comforting, but irresponsible closure. While these young women may have started a movement, this ending segment credits them — and solely them — with “solving” college sexual assault.

After this quick transition, women are suddenly shown strongly standing up and taking action, and administrators (formerly pessimistic about the future of the issue) suddenly see an optimistic solution. Footage of President Obama giving an address on the issue and a montage of new federal investigations into colleges make it seem as though these national achievements were a direct result of only these two students’ mission. Visually, this creates a false cause-and-effect relationship, in which the middle step is never shown. Where is the mention of Emma Sulkowicz, the student who started a movement in 2014 after carrying her mattress around campus after being assaulted? What about all the administrators, politicians, families, reporters, and students that played a role in this movement (a movement which started long before these young women even started college)?

The journey of the two students at UNC did not happen in a vacuum, but they are portrayed as if they did. Gillian Greensite, director of rape prevention education at UC Santa Cruz, notes that the first peak of activism in the rape-crisis movement occurred after the Civil War. Considering how these incidents are analyzed in isolation, the film lacks a rational evaluation of the then-current state of discussion about sexual assault and consequently, does these victims a giant disservice. Its happy ending also does not leave room for future discussion of this issue. Sexual assault is a dynamic problem in the United States; recently Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that the administration was formally withdrawing Obama-era campus sexual assault direction.

In addition, it has been argued that many of the statistics used in the film are outdated or merely inaccurate. Slate’s Emily Yoffe, who also writes for the Atlantic, spoke to Alyssa Keehan, director of research at United Educators — a higher education insurance group that recently released a study of 305 sexual assault claims they received from 104 schools over three years. Keehan noted that the “most common narrative you hear” — institutions not caring about sexual assault — might not be true. Their data found that when a formal complaint is brought against a student, he is found guilty 45 percent of the time, and when that happens, the attacker is given the “most severe penalty available” (expulsion or suspension) over 80 percent of the time. Nonetheless, while the choice of statistics used in the film can be arguably biased or inaccurate, it can hardly be debated that some are outdated. Specifically, in a portion of the film discussing student athletes as the prime attackers who get away with assault, two statistics are held onscreen; these statistics date back to 1993, over twenty years before the film was released. In using this data, the filmmakers ignore how college culture has changed tremendously in the past twenty years and continue to deny the viewer of a fully-informed, unbiased discussion on college sexual assault.

Any documentary has a responsibility to be fact-based, and in conveniently excluding major pieces of the investigations noted, the film loses its legitimacy and sabotages its powerful message. For example, a large piece of the film focuses on the rape allegation against Jameis Winston, a former Florida State University quarterback who was found not responsible after a criminal investigation. His accuser, Erica Kinsman, went public saying that after drinking a shot at an off-campus bar she started feeling strange and was “fairly certain there was something in that drink.” However, the filmmakers fail to note that two toxicology reports found that she had no drugs in her system nor do they reveal that at the December hearing, Kinsman did not insist that she was drugged or unconscious. Granted, these young women are beyond brave for speaking out about their experiences; sexual assault on college campuses is a real problem that needs to be addressed. Yet while testimony from real victims has raw, emotional power, it isn’t enough. If the students are looking to inform the public about this very serious issue, an ethical stance of fairness does not leave room for picking and choosing what critical pieces get included.

Ultimately, The Hunting Ground does its viewers a disservice by focusing on passion over information. In a world where the media rules our daily lives, documentary-makers have an ethical responsibility to provide fact-based films. However, some could argue that the pushback from schools on the accuracy of things mentioned in the film perhaps proves the film’s point: colleges do not want to put their reputations on the line by addressing this very real issue. Yet, in terms of the film itself, it poses serious questions about bias and our consumption of media. Can a documentary still be a good documentary if it only presents one side of the story? Additionally, Emily Yoffe brought up an interesting point in an NPR interview: what does this mean for CNN? This news network is attempting to present the film as a “fair exploration of an important subject,” but it very easily might not be “fair” at all.

 

Featured image by Christopher Serra, courtesy of the LA Times.

Her Body and Other Parties

Stories by Carmen Maria Machado
Reviewed by Anna Bottrell

Immersing myself in this book took a sharp adjustment of expectations, as at first I almost slipped into mistaking Carmen Maria Machado’s surreal style for a play on the absurd, a beautiful and precise craft where the meaning lies more in the sensation of the sentences than in their larger sum. However, almost violently, at the end of every story a clear vision sets itself into place. Additionally, the stories build throughout the book with their shared theme: women’s bodies. Who has them, who wants them, and what is it like to live in such prime real estate?

The stories cover topics such as dehumanization, objectification, sexual assault, queer and lesbian relationships, and body shame.

Instead of writing women’s experiences through dialogue, Machado paints a vivid portrait with her imaginative descriptions of a world that seems inside out. Its beating heart lies in scenery. Significance is revealed through physical manifestations, and so the body and mind express themselves as one — open to the senses for observation.

It struck me as interesting that few of these stories have an exact setting, in time or in space. They seem to emanate from an archive of common culture, rather than from the manifest world. The stories take familiar elements and setups, and they bind them into Machado’s psychologically thrilling surrealism. However, this borrowing does not make them predictable. When Machado manipulates a familiar scenario, she makes it her own. She does this with a folktale in her story “The Husband Stitch”, post-apocalyptic survival in “Inventory’, and even Law & Order: SVU in “Especially Heinous”. Machado’s voice feels like something that is filling gaps in perspective, something that was always necessary to add.

After reading Her Body and Other Parties , I can re-examine the bits and pieces of common culture that Maghado wove into her stories. As they were untouched, they seem off. Stale, surface level. When Machado writes, she sees her subject matter with a sense of refreshing clarity. A folktale I heard in my childhood may appear to me through her warped vision with a new grain of truth, and suddenly feel urgent and contemporary. It may suddenly feel important.

This book is important. Machado appears to agree. She writes as if to say, “This is the world underneath your world, the world you’ve been told to ignore; but, it exists”.

She drives this point home in the book’s first passage, with a wake-up slap of reverse psychology:

(If you read this story out loud, please use the following voices:
Me: as a child, high-pitched, forgettable; as a woman, the same.
The boy who will grow into a man, and be my spouse: robust with serendipity.

My father: kind, booming; like your father, or the man you wish was your father.
My son: as a small child, gentle, sounding with the faintest of lisps; as a man, like my husband. All other women: interchangeable with my own.)

She has my attention.

See this post in the Clarion magazine as well at bu.edu/clarion

Sexual Assault: A Global Issue Part 2

By Kelsie Merrick

In this election, sexual assault has grown to become a controversial topic with allegations coming from all sides. Whether it’s women saying Donald Trump has sexually assaulted them or Hillary Clinton has covered up rape cases. We’ve heard them all, and people and parties from both sides agree with these women or disagree with these women. However, it does not matter if you agree or disagree with any of these allegations because what we should all agree on is that this is an issue that needs to be fixed, not just in the United States but worldwide. The United Nations has been an avid supporter of reducing the violence against women for years. In 1993, the UN General Assembly created the “Declaration for the Elimination of Violence against Women” to provide a framework on how to act against this crisis. However, it’s been over 20 years since that declaration and “1 in 3 women still experience physical or sexual violence.” If that statistic doesn’t sicken you, just know “around 120 million girls worldwide, that’s 1 in 10, have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts” during their lives. The most common perpetrators of these sexual assaults are former husbands, partners or boyfriends.

We can talk about sexual assault all we want, but that won’t change anything. We need action.

 

What Can We Do To End This Violence?

Stand together in protest against our government until they implement better laws like in Argentina. Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) is a movement of women’s rights advocates that began in June of last year. They are fighting against femicide, a crime involving the violent and deliberate killing of a woman, because, in Argentina, a woman is killed every 30 hours. On Wednesday, October 19th there was a mass demonstration held for every woman that has been killed in the past five years, but mainly for a 16-year-old girl by the name of Lucia Perez who was abducted then drugged, raped repeatedly, and sodomized with an ‘unspecified object’ so violently that she eventually bled out from her internal injuries. The United States needs to join the Ni Una Menos movement, and hopefully, together change will occur. In the US, every 109 seconds an American becomes a victim of sexual assault. Every 8 minutes, a child becomes a victim of sexual assault. Think about those numbers for a second. Think about your mother, sister, brother, father, niece, or nephew. In 109 seconds, they could be a victim. Sexual assault happens too frequently for us to not do anything about it.

We need to encourage victims to speak out against the violence done to them and with this, we need to encourage society to not shame them. According to a study by RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, 20% of victims do not report sexual assault out of fear of retaliation and 13% don’t report because they believe the police wouldn’t do anything to help. Often when a victim speaks out about assault we hear the excuses of “you were drinking too much” or “you shouldn’t have worn such revealing clothing.” What we should be hearing is “we are here to help you” or “they will not get away with this.”

On top of that, we need to start holding offenders accountable. Out of every 1,000 rapists, only 344 are reported to police. However, from that 344 only six rapists will be incarcerated. Six. Imagine being a victim and knowing these statistics. It’s understandable for them to think nothing will happen. Combine the lack of punishment and victims not reporting, 994 perpetrators walk free. 944 people have gotten away with a disgusting crime. 994 people are able to assault another innocent person.

I was raised learning that we should respect each other and to live by the “golden rule” that you should do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Especially being taught from an older generation that believed men were supposed to treat women respectfully and protect them. Many women from the Feminist Movement will take offense to that statement now because we as women can take care of ourselves and protect ourselves, but honestly, only to a certain extent. When you’re a young girl or are intoxicated, willingly or unwillingly, you are not able to protect yourself against a man that is two or three times your size. Together, every country, every nation, every man and women and innocent child needs to come together so that people don’t get away with these vile and torturous crimes and that they serve the correct sentences.

Sexual Assault Around the World

By Kelsie Merrick

On New Year’s Eve in Cologne, Germany, hundreds of women reported being sexually assaulted. I, along with many other people, heard about this and was quite disgusted. It was uncertain as to what would happen to these women and if, when the perpetrators were identified, what would the punishment be. Unfortunately, for them, no one will be held accountable for these actions. When I found this out, I was completely shocked because I know in the United States, for the most part, people are reprimanded for their sexual assault actions. I chose to look more into this topic and here is what I found.

Chantal Louis, an editor at Emma, one of Germany’s oldest feminist magazines, says, “the German law accepts that a man generally has the right to touch a woman, to have sexual intercourse with a woman. It’s his right unless the woman shows her resistance very, very strongly.” In the logic of German law, if touching of a woman’s breasts or vagina happens quickly, the law will not punish the perpetrator because the victim did not have enough time to resist the action. As far as the law is concerned, the issue is not verbal consent. The law requires that there be a “threat of imminent danger to life and limb.” That is, if a woman, or any person for that matter, cannot prove with their body (with bruises or other injuries) that they fought back, then the assault is not a crime. In Die Zeit, a German newspaper, a male German defense lawyer reported, “a woman must carry her ‘no’ through. We [men] can hardly know with a simple ‘no,’ whether she really means it.” According to national statistics, “between 7,000 and 8,000 rapes are reported every year.” BFF, a national association of women’s help groups based in Berlin, believes these numbers only represent 5% of the real number of cases. BFF also states, “only 13% of rape cases result in convictions.” One possible explanation for this is the law’s limitations.

Interestingly enough, in German workplace it is clear that “it’s not OK for someone to touch you, to try to kiss you, to lay a hand on your back.” This is called “sexual harassment at the workplace” and every women and man knows it is unacceptable. Heike Lütgart, a criminologist and career police officer with decades of experience investigating gender-based violence, says that not having a law outside of the workforce is a tremendous problem for women because they do not realize that they do not have this protection.

After reading about the laws in Germany surrounding sexual assault, I became curious about how the three most populated countries handled sexual assault. In China, they recently overturned a law that “mandated a more lenient punishment for men who had sex with girls under the age of 14 if they could ‘prove’ that they paid the girl for sex.” There is now a heavy mandatory penalty for this crime with the highest punishment being the death penalty. India passed a new Anti-Rape bill in April of 2013. This bill includes crimes such as acid violence, stalking, and voyeurism. Attackers can be charged anywhere between 14 years in prison to the death sentence for extreme cases. The bill states that even if the victim does not physically struggle, that does not constitute as consent. Unfortunately, marital rape is still legal, but the age of consent was raised from 16 to 18.

I then looked at the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 30 percent of U.S. women experience some kind of unwanted sexual contact in their lifetime. The Model Penal code, the go-to documents for lawmakers rewriting their criminal laws, still allows for men to rape their wives, but this “marital exemption” has been outlawed in all 50 states since the 1990s. It was not until about the middle of the 20th century that victims needed to prove their chastity for their cases to be taken seriously. In the United States, forty-three states and the District of Columbia specify that unwanted sexual contact is prohibited. Five states have laws prohibiting battery, public indecency or “lewd and lascivious” behavior. Mississippi and Idaho, on the other hand, do not have “criminal laws that clearly forbid unwanted sexual touching such as groping and fondling.” In 2013, Mississippi’s Democratic state Republic Kimberly Campbell proposed a bill to create a misdemeanor crime called “indecent assault.” This bill would handle adult fondling cases, which could prevent future crimes by stopping the act early. The bill died due to the fact the bill was too vague with the explanation of intent and opponents feared that the bill could “criminalize accidental touching or bumping.” On the other hand, there has been an indecent assault law in Pennsylvania since the 1970s. Deputy District Attorney Janet Necessary says that she takes several dozen of these cases a year. Her office has used this law to prosecute cases involving supervisors who have sexually harassed their workers in a physical way.

We, the citizens of the United States, need to work together to first, create a universal law across all 50 states to protect unwanted sexual touching/assaults against women and men. Second, eventually, spread this idea to other countries so that no human being has to live through such an uncomfortable situation.

On Minimization as a Patriarchal Reflex

By Matthew Remski

On Facebook, I posted a brief note about starting to learn what is painfully obvious to women: patriarchy inflicts the stress of constant bodily vigilance at best and acute terror at worse.

The post took off and the comments were stunning. So many stood out, like those that reported on strategies for increasing safety in taxis. One commenter wrote that she always video-chats with a friend while she’s alone in an Uber, dropping details that signal to the driver that someone knows where they are. If men don’t know about this kind of defensive labour, they’ve got to learn.

I don’t have to assault women to participate in the normalization of assault. My learned, default responses are participation enough. Without that participation, could assault really be so prevalent?

I have to climb a mountain, forty years high, to look a little boy in the eye and tell him it’s okay to feel his pain and sorrow. To tell him it’s a good thing, actually. That it will help him learn to listen, and listening will help him let other people have their feelings as well.

 

Read the entire post here

Hanging Fire

By Annie Jonas

I am eighteen
and I am scared
Why did Security pack its bags
with the swirl and sizzle
of blown out birthday candles
Goodbye god
i used to say
as the slithering grey serpent
pungent and choking
filled my nostrils with a suffocating stench
Goodbye god
Signed, sealed, delivered
The song is being sung
and i know i’m supposed
to like it
but it feels like some kind of mockery
like a death knoll
My last rites are too
beautiful
to be granted
They lay sleeping in the
blue and red bulbous wax
of still warm birthday candles
drip-drip-dripping
Cold now
How do you feel, (your name here)?
I feel good

I am eighteen
and i am scared
Car keys jagged
gripped between my cold fingers
are a lie
Maybe i’m in denial
They become reminders
digging into my flesh that
the boogie man doesn’t just
prey
on little girls anymore
That red lipstick is a song
and songs lure
and i’m not trying to sing
but i’m doing it anyway
And he took my smile as a gift
Take me now
My lipstick was the offering
I was the sacrifice
He was God
Pray
Pray for me when you get the chance
How do you feel, (your name here)?
I feel good

I am eighteen
and I am scared
that the kiss of cake
upon my tongue
will last longer than
myself
I am scared of becoming
the next taken girl
Of becoming the pronoun in the eulogy with
sadhappy adjectives
A pity
Of becoming Breaking News
blaring red
How do you feel, (your name here)?
I feel good

Hanging fire
Inhale
The moment between
Security and Reality
Melting candles before the cold
Red lipstick before the snatch
Cake before the bite
Make a wish, sweetheart
Exhale