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Sexual Assault Awareness Month sparks discussion

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OSU community members gather to watch "The Hunting Ground" in the Ohio Union on April 11 during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Credit: Shangquan Shi | Lantern reporter

OSU community members gather to watch “The Hunting Ground” in the Ohio Union on April 11 during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Credit: Shangquan Shi | Lantern reporter

The issue of sexual assault on U.S. college campuses has become a topic of discussion. How institutions are responding and how they should respond have become part of the controversy.

In recognition of national Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the College of Social Work held a screening on Monday at 4:30 p.m. of “The Hunting Ground”, a documentary film about the occurrence of sexual assaults in several universities across the U.S. and the inadequacy of universities’ responses to these crimes.

After the screening, a guided discussion took place about what people can do differently to address sexual violence on campus.

“It’s really important for us to start having conversations about the sexual assault and not pretend it’s not happening because we know it is,” said Lisa Durham, the assistant dean of the College of Social Work.

The film mainly portrays Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, two survivors who are former students of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In the film, they push an initiative to form a victim’s network, get universities to listen to them and fight against campus assaults. When they initially report the crimes, the university asks what they were wearing and drinking.

“What the victims wear doesn’t matter,” Durham said. “It’s all about the perpetrators. If it’s a rape, it’s the perpetrator, not the victim. So this (film) really takes a different look and questions some of the universities: What are you doing?”

The Sexual Civility and Empowerment Program at Ohio State and the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio were also invited to the event to talk about resources for sexual assault victims.

“We provide direct one-on-one support to all students who experience any form of sexual violence,” said Vanilla Valley, a student assistant of the Sexual Civility and Empowerment Program and a fourth-year in international studies. “We work with local police to coordinate services for reporting assaults. We do empowerment coaching and comprehensive campuswide prevention planning programs. We also work with groups like SARNCO to foster a safe and respectable environment for victims to report.”

Durham said the first step is to be able to have such an open and honest conversation.

“It’s an area that all of us are concerned about,” Durham said. “So we came together and decided to put this film on. Hopefully this conversation and the other events that will be held this week will translate into making our campus a safer campus.”

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