It was in Annie Clark’s first year at the University of North Carolina’s Chapel Hill campus when she realized she was a victim of sexual assault.
When she approached her administrator asking her for help, her administrator replied with an analogy: rape was like a football game, and Clark was the quarterback ‘in charge’ of her own experience. The administrator went on to tell Clark that she should go back and figure out what she could have done differently to change her situation.
“When it happened to me, first of all, I was an athlete, I was a straight-A student and I liked to control anything,” Clark said. “I could control a ball on the soccer field, but when it came time for hearing out how to process sexual assault, I had no idea where to go.”
Clark’s experience with the assault and her administrator’s response inspired her to work hard for the rest of her academic career at UNC and beyond to make sure survivors of sexual violence could report, access resources and receive help without being blamed for what happened to them.
For Andrea Pino, it wasn’t until she suffered academically at UNC that she finally asked someone for help.
Pino immediately got involved with her campus. She became a resident advisor and got involved with student government, housing and several other committees.
“I thought I knew my campus,” Pino said. “I thought I knew every single inch of my campus. I thought I knew that if anyone had a question, I knew where to point them because I studied this school so much and became so involved.”
But just weeks after Pino joined a bystander prevention program her sophomore year, she herself was sexually assaulted.
“I didn’t know what to do when it happened to me,” Pino said. “That’s because my assault didn’t look like what I thought sexual assault looked like it was in Law and Order SVU or what it was in movies. I didn’t see the signs and I didn’t consider myself a victim, much less a survivor.”
Pino and Clark shared their personal stories with a crowd of around 300 students in the Freeman Auditorium at the HUB-Robeson center Monday night to take part in one of the first educational events kicking off Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Sponsored by the Center for Women Students, Pino and Clark’s organization, titled “End Rape on Campus,” gives educational attention to the issue of sexual violence on college campuses.
During the event, Pino and Clark shed light to students on the statistics of sexual assault on campus.
One in five female students and one in sixteen male students have experienced sexual assault or have been subjected to unwanted sexual contact.
According to Pino, survivors of color are even more likely to be sexually assaulted.
“Unfortunately the way the media covers it, it’s often seen as a very white female issue,” Pino said. “It’s often times seen that women of color are less likely to be believed because of the way the media hypersexualizes or dismisses their claims.”
Clark then highlighted the statistics of sexual assault of lesbian gay bisexual transgender (LGBT) students: one in eight lesbian women are sexually assaulted. Nearly four in 10 gay men experience sexual violence in their lifetime, and nearly 50 percent of bisexual women and men experience sexual violence in their lifetime.
“We can’t talk about sexual violence without talking about race, gender identity or gender expressions,” Clark said. “We are intersectional people and need to address it. Especially because the populations that we talk the least about and the least represented in these conversations are the most affected.”
Pino and Clark further discussed how the process of getting through trauma is not always linear, and that schools should provide residential accommodations for students who feel unsafe in their college, provide accessible counseling services independent of disciplinary procedures, provide comprehensive prevention trainings for incoming, and existing students and provide sensitivity training for all administration staff on avoiding victim blaming.
Clark and Pino also discussed activism for the media to change how reporters cover sexual violence.
Pino discussed how the media tends to cover sexual and interpersonal violence as single incidents, which is known as episodic framing, and should be framed thematically as a national recurring issue.
Pino also discussed how popular television shows such as “The Game of Thrones” portray sexual violence.
“Unfortunately a big common theme is the way sexual assault is used as a common plot point in a lot of shows,” Pino said. “Usually that sexual assault is used for defining a character.”
Pino and Clark ended the discussion stating that it is not the survivors fault and that they are not alone.
Kaitlin Fausey said she was drawn to attending the event after seeing The Hunting Ground documentary and thought it was interesting how Clark and Pino are huge advocates for survivors of sexual assault.
“What surprised me was hearing how stories in the media tends to be about white women. You don’t hear many stories covered on minorities,” Fausey (junior-environmental resource management) said.
Nayantara Singh, a 2016 Penn State graduate, said she also wanted to attend the event after watching “The Hunting Ground” and after being involved with the Center County Women’s Resource Center to spread awareness herself.
Singh said she was shocked when Clark and Pino spoke about how popular television shows and the entertainment industry addresses sexual assault since it has never been discussed before.
While Singh said she thinks its important students get text reminders of assaults on campus, she wishes there were more ways to teach students about consent.
“I honestly don’t think Penn State is doing enough to address the issue of sexual assault on campus,” Singh said. “I think they are doing the bare minimum and should be open to more improvement.”