One in four women will be sexually assaulted by the time she finishes college.
Nineteen separate reports of sexual assault have been fielded in the State College area since Aug. 27, 2012. Nationally, only 46 percent of sexual assaults are reported to the police.
The title of Stephanie Wain’s documentary “Unreported” brings to light statistics such as these and that many women fear to turn to the police when they have been sexually assaulted.
Wain (junior-film and video) got the idea for the film when she learned her older sister had survived a sexual assault. Wain was “heartbroken,” and decided to raise awareness about the issue of sexual violence via her Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking class at Penn State.
“Unreported” was shown at the Downtown Theatre at 4 p.m. on Sunday as a part of the Cultural Conversations Festival, which highlights a different social issue every February, this year’s theme being childhood sexual assault and sexual violence against women.
Cultural Conversations was started seven years ago by Susan Russell, the current artistic director of the festival. Russell said this year had the lowest turnout in the history of the festival, because, she said, sexual assault is not a topic most people want to talk about.
“I'll never forget that day [I saw the documentary], thinking ‘This must be shown,’ ” Russell said. “Everything about it as a film is beautiful, and everything about it as a cultural commentary is important — to illuminate a crisis on this campus and campuses all across this country.”
The documentary highlighted the personal stories of two women who agreed to be interviewed, and also focused on the objectification of women in the media, reports of sexual assault in the news and the lack of education requirements about sexual assault at Penn State.
Wain pushed the importance of education about sexual violence for all college students, and asserted that there should be a required, three-credit course at Penn State that focuses on sexual assault.
“We need to teach students that if they attend parties downtown, [sexual assault] is something that can happen to them. This needs to be something that people aren't ashamed of, because they're already silenced by our culture,” Wain said in a question-and-answer session with the audience following her film.
Another issue addressed was telling men not to sexually assault women rather than telling women how to avoid being sexually assaulted. Wain points out in the film that Penn State Men Against Violence has only ten members, which she considers a problem since 99 percent of sexual assault perpetrators are men.
Lauren DeCarvalho(graduate-mass communications) was featured in the film, and also spoke to the importance of education and awareness about sexual violence for everyone, not just women.
“There are two things that need to happen — initiating conversations about rape culture and what it is, because people don’t realize what it is, and that they're part of the problem, and educating yourself about media — to examine and be critical of it,” DeCarvalho said.
Audience members during the question-and-answer session with Wain following the film seemed to be supportive of the idea of requiring education about sexual assault, though many seemed to feel it should begin earlier — in high school or before.
An audience member pointed out that high school is often the age where sexual assaults begin, and the high schools themselves are a location where all students in the country are required to be, so education at that level would reach everyone.
Many of the audience members who spoke up kept coming back to the topic of how prevalent sexual violence is in America, saying it’s not something that just happens to “other people,” and therefore should be a topic our culture feels comfortable discussing.