In 2014, sexual assault on college campuses became front-page news – in 2015 it will have an even larger profile as activists, journalists, filmmakers, government officials sexual violence prevention practitioners, and college administrators will be taking more action on this topic.
Just in the last year, stories of student activists naming the problem of campus sexual assault drew national attention. The White House established a task force, issued a report and developed the It’s on Us campaign to address the issue. The federal government released a list of colleges and universities undergoing investigation of sexual violence (starting with 55 institutions – now up to 94) and the Department of Education issued regulations on addressing sexual violence.
Yet, I expect even more attention and action in 2015. The year started with the January 2015 premiere of The Hunting Ground at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was one of the “Top 10 Buzzed About Festival Films.” This film will be released in theaters in New York and Los Angeles on February 27, and will open on other cities later. And The Hunting Ground will be shown on CNN in the fall.
I saw The Hunting Ground earlier this week – it is a compelling and moving account of the horrors of the experience of rape, the even more horrifying complacency of colleges mishandling, ignoring and minimizing sexual assault, and the flourishing powerful student movement to create change. I left the screening both saddened and energized. This film will be an important catalyst for action to support efforts toward preventing sexual violence.
To truly find ways to prevent sexual violence on college and university campuses, we must build collaboration between students, communities, and institutions, while always putting student voices first. Student activists, sexual violence prevention practitioners from local rape crisis centers, state coalitions, national organizations, faculty, parents and alumni all have important roles to play in working with college administrations. Together, we can encourage college and university administrators to take concrete action and create comprehensive plans to support survivors and create the social change necessary to end rape culture on campus.
This work will take a long-term commitment. It will require ongoing, meaningful engagement of students, prevention efforts beyond short-term presentations and on-line modules, overhaul of campuses policies and procedure, and authentic partnerships to create change. I strongly encourage you to see The Hunting Ground, invite others to see the film, and work together to create change. All of us at CALCASA and PreventConnect will continue to provide support, resources and opportunities to learn from each other to support this movement for change.