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Annie Clark

Person + Passion + Social Media = Change

I saw two films over the weekend: The Hunting Ground and #chicagoGirl. Both of these documentaries featured young activists who are fighting against horrible problems – sexual assault on college campuses and abuses of power in Syria respectively. The something that I find it so captivating about both of these films is none of these activists waited to be asked to help. They just started doing what they thought was right, at many times putting themselves in danger, and doing what they have to do to try to make a difference.

I love seeing this type of passion in people – working on a cause every free moment, even at the expense of schoolwork, a social life, or sleep. This is when you know you’re working on something that matters, when you sit down to work on a project for an hour and the next thing you know six hours have passed. I love when I’m in this zone.

Fire Sparks by Kirrus from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Fire Sparks by Kirrus from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The other thing I love about these films is seeing how social media allows people all over the world to connect and work on a cause. In #chicagoGirl, we see how 19 year-old Ala Basatneh is a major player in the Syrian Revolution by coordinating activities from a Chicago suburb and posting videos that end up on news stations like CNN. In The Hunting Ground, Annie Clark and Andrea Pino use platforms like Skype to connect with other survivors of campus sexual assault and teach them how to file a Title IX complaint against their school if they don’t handle their case correctly.

It is so incredible to see what every day people are able to do with social media. It’s a platform that anyone can use to raise awareness, connect with others, and promote change without having to ask permission from the government or any other type of authority. I absolutely love it.

The problems related to campus sexual assault in the Syrian Revolution are ongoing. If either of these issues are important to you, please get involved however you can. And if there is another cause that you have passion about, don’t wait for an invitation to get involved. Join and online community related to your issue, and if there isn’t one, start it.

The Hunting Ground Sheds Light on the Realities of Campus Sexual Assault

I saw the documentary The Hunting Ground tonight, which sheds light on it the problem of sexual assault on college campuses. Many schools appear to under-report the problem and deal with it in effectively, many times discouraging victims from going to the police.

This situation is so frustrating because it appears that schools are focused on maintaining their reputations which increases the likelihood of getting and maintaining donors, in particular in regards to athletics and fraternities. The statistics regarding campus sexual assault are shocking and astounding, especially given that studies have shown that less than 10% of reports are false. In many cases, it appeared the school was more focused on silencing the victim then dealing with the problem.

They even featured an interview with a person who had been convicted of campus sexual assault and he described perpetrator’s pattern of behavior. It appears that the majority of people on a college campus do not commit sexual assault; however, those who do, attack multiple people.

Everyone Knows Someone Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted (From the One in Three Exhibit by Stacey Champion)

Everyone Knows Someone Who Has Been Sexually Assaulted (From the One in Three Exhibit by Stacey Champion)

One of the most devastating statistics presented was if this situation doesn’t change, over 100,000 college students in the U.S. will be sexually assaulted next year.

Now, I have to temper all of this information with the fact that the accused attackers are innocent until proven guilty and sexual assault cases are difficult to prove, especially when there is weak physical evidence. I can accept this as long as law enforcement does a thorough job with their investigations. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

After the film, I walked up and down Mill Avenue for a while. For those of you who were not familiar with Arizona State University, Mill Avenue is at the border of the Tempe campus where there are many bars. I found myself wondering, “How many ASU students will be sexually assaulted tonight?”

Based on what I saw many young women wearing, crop tops appear to be back in style. Of course, no person deserves to be raped regardless of what they were wearing (or drinking). But I wondered how many attackers will take advantage of this fashion statement to grab or fondle someone without consent.

Systematic problems like this make me so frustrated because it feels like the deck is stacked against victims and their allies. I don’t know what it will take to make universities step up and admit that this might be a nationwide problem and covering it up or pressuring victims to remain silent is not going to fix it. There has to be a way to make it more painful to try to dismiss this problem rather than deal with campus sexual assault effectively.

I applaud what Annie Clark and Andrea Pino are doing to encourage victims to file Title IX complaints against their school if they do not properly respond to reports of sexual assault. Until those complaints are reviewed, the lawyer in me may also suggest survivors to consider getting a restraining order against their attacker and suing them for civil damages in addition to filing criminal charges against them.