Despite increased awareness about sexual assault on college campuses, many survivors are still blamed for the actions of their rapists — but people are working to spread awareness about and prevent sexual assault. Andrea Pino and Annie Clark want to connect rape survivors with the resources meant for them.
Both women were sexually assaulted while students at UNC. In 2013, they started End Rape on Campus, an activist group that works with and supports survivors.
“I cared about my fellow Tar Heels and I cared about my residents, and I felt like the University wasn’t prioritizing sexual violence prevention (and) prioritizing sexual violence response,” Pino said. “I really wanted to make it better for students who come after me.”
Clark said she has worked with many different schools.
“I think we are in a better place than we were in 2010, 2011, but there’s still a lot more to be done,” Clark said. “And I think if we want to stop sexual assault in college, we actually have to start much earlier. So working on things like healthy relationships and things like education at the high school level, if not earlier, is absolutely necessary.”
She said that what happens at UNC is a microcosm of a much larger issue across the country.
“It’s not about one person’s story, it’s not about my story or Andrea’s story, it’s about the fact that we live in a culture that normalizes violence, and until recently a lot of institutions had the incentive to cover it up,” she said.
The Government’s Part
Pino and Clark work with the local, state and federal government for survivors. They ask policy makers questions, sit in on meetings and connect survivors with lawyers.
“The government isn’t really our ally when it comes to tackling violence on campus,” Pino said.
Emma Johnson, co-founder of the Carolina Sexual Assault Coalition, works to spread awareness, influence policy and prevent sexual violence. CSAC started this year and works with the UNC administration, but Johnson said she hopes they will be able to work with the government eventually.
She said a sexual assault hearing should take 60 days, but the process can take over a year.
“Survivors have no way to know if what they are experiencing is standard or if their experience is what’s to be expected, and they walk away feeling confused or uncomfortable,” Johnson said.
Some professors talk about sexual violence in their classes. UNC journalism professor Barbara Friedman said her newswriting students spend half of the class writing about sexual violence.
She also said she knows professors who discuss the issue and its importance in their classes. For example, a UNC history professor talks about the history of sexual violence in his classes.
“The people who talk about this issue talk about it in very different ways, so I think there’s a real benefit to understanding that there are multiple ways to approach the topic of rape,” Friedman said. “Each brings their own perspective and body of scholarly knowledge to the topic.”
Pino said survivors are likely to suffer academically, so faculty, academic advisers and others should discuss the issue in their classes and meetings to know how to help these students.
“Help doesn’t look the same for all students,” Pino said. “For some students, it could mean reporting formally and seeking action against the person who wronged them; for others, it could just mean passing a class and graduating.”