Documentary raises sexual assault awareness

The Do Something club and student group Project Nine screen “The Hunting Ground” to increase knowledge of sexual assaults on college campuses.

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Eliana Park/THE CHIMES

Jehn Kubiak, Writer

Students filled 180 seats and the aisles of the Andrews Banquet Room to view “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary that conveys the reality of sexual assault on college campuses. The documentary focuses on cases that happened on campuses in the United States, how they were covered up by campus administration and how they affected victims and their families.

About the Evening

The film centers around two students from University of North Carolina who survived sexual assault and led a Title IX campaign against the university. This campaign eventually led to other students speaking up about sexual assault on their campuses and new legislation passed by the White House. The screening was part of the Do Something club’s sexual assault awareness week and the club hosted it in conjunction with a student group called Project Nine.

Following the film, the group held a panel discussion to answer students’ questions about the documentary, sexual assault and how Christians can respond to the issue. Administrative coordinator for communication studies Sarah Schwartz led the panel, which included senior elementary education major Haley Darien, Chief John Ojeisekhoba of Campus Safety and Biola Counseling Center doctoral intern Ryan O’Farrell.

A Taboo Topic

Senior communications major Cat Dinius said the idea to screen the film surfaced in her group during her Engaging Perspectives class. They decided to do their project on sexual assaults on college campuses and partnered with the Do Something club to hold a sexual assault awareness week.

Dinius wanted to raise awareness because she feels sexual assault is a taboo topic among Christians because of purity culture. She said victims of sexual assault feel ashamed and separated from other Christians because they unintentionally became impure and do not know how to discuss the issue.

“A lot of people shared with me how they don’t even in Christian circles go towards that conversation,” Dinius said. “ They don’t even talk about physical intimacy at all and what it looks like to have a healthy relationship.”

Solving Instances of Injustice

Senior sociology major and Do Something club president Lauren Garchow is passionate about solving instances of injustice. She started the club to raise awareness and hopes to sponsor more awareness events.

“There’s a lot of things that Biola isn’t talking about and should be talking about, and this is just one of them which is very important and came at the right time,” Garchow said. “But there’s multiple things we’re hoping to bring to the table.”

Garchow found the film through a Lady Gaga music video of the song “Til It Happens to You” based on Gaga’s experiences with sexual assault. Garchow researched more about the video’s story and discovered it was part of “The Hunting Ground” documentary.

Education

Dinius said students can help prevent sexual assault by becoming more educated.

“By being educated about this topic and diving into it, we can help as a Biola community for those that may run into this situation later on in life,” Dinius said.

Garchow said students may not be aware of the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses because the issue has not directly impacted them.

“If it’s someone that’s ignorant about the issue on this campus, we hope that their eyes can be open to the reality of it here,” Garchow said. “If it’s someone that’s kind of aware but doesn’t particularly know the scope of the problem, we’re hoping that they can just develop a personal desire to make a change in the issue of sexual assault.”

Impact

The survivors’ stories impacted students. Senior cinema and media arts major Matthew Robertson did not know much about sexual assault or the documentary before viewing the film, but said it helped him realize how much the issue is suppressed on college campuses.

“It’s made me realize that it’s [sexual assault] real on pretty much any college campus and it’s not something that you can just tuck away and hide,” Robertson said.

He also said hearing the students’ stories helped him realize the severity and reality of sexual assault.

“The peoples’ stories really kind of changed it for me because obviously you hear stories about it, but hearing the heartbreaking stories just really left an impact on me,” Robertson said.

Facing the Issue

Senior journalism major Keri Lusk said sexual assault is not often discussed on Christian campuses because many people do not believe Christian universities face the same issues as secular universities.

“This is the first time in my entire time of being at Biola that we’re having a public conversation about this,” Lusk said. “I’m simultaneously really glad that this is happening and really sad that this is a one time experience.”

In addition, Lusk feels Christians should advocate for these students and speak out against sexual assault on campuses. She said she was heartbroken to see many young students working hard to attend quality schools, but be let down when administration handles sexual assault cases.

Providing Safe Space

“I’m pretty speechless at just the amount of underrepresentation that student victims have. It should be in their college’s best interest to provide a safe space for students and yet they’re fighting over money and accolades instead,” Lusk said.

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