According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. Last week, a group of five female students from the class Topics in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies put together a movie viewing about sexual assault with the goal of spreading awareness.
“The Hunting Ground” is a 2015 documentary about sexual assault on campuses. The documentary profiles students at different campuses across the nation who have been sexually assaulted. The Hunting Ground explored different campuses including Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Yale, and public schools such as the University of Connecticut.
“The documentary shows how campuses handle sexual assault or not really handle it and the different prominent problems in our society. It’s very intense,” Adya Plourde, a second-year political science and women, gender and sexuality studies student, said.=
Plourde was one of the five women in the group who helped set up and run this project. The group kept busy doing press releases, conferences, sending out flyers and emails and posting advertisements on Facebook and other social media websites.
“It was a lot of work, but it was worth it. The best part was the amount of people that came and advice that was given and it was nice that people trusted us,” Plourde said.
After the documentary, there was a question and answer session for an hour or so afterwards. The group of girls had asked several panelists to the showing for anyone who wanted to ask questions or make comments about the state of the video or even the state of the university.
The panelists were Chase Hoyt from Maine Athletes Against Violence (MAAV); Amanda Blake, a forensic scientist at St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor; Elizabeth Lavoie, a Title IX coordinator; Angel Shaw, who works with Rape Response Services at UMaine; Kenda Scheele, Associate Dean of Students; and Amanda Cost, who works with Spruce Run-Womancare Alliance.
The panelists had plenty to say with regard to everyone’s questions, and gave statistics to the best of their abilities.
“Between Eastern Maine and St. Joe’s, at least 100 people come in for sexual assault related issues. This year at St. Joe’s, we have had 40 and about a third of them have been college age,” Blake said.
There were about 80 people in attendance and participants at the question and answer session were active in the conversation, with questions and comments about what could change and how UMaine could better address sexual assault on campus.
The attendants of the seminar listened intently while the panelists discussed the repercussions for sexual assault at all of the University of Maine campuses, and some were surprised at their lack of severity.
“In our conduct code, expulsion is not one of the options. The two options of most severe punishment is suspension for a determined period of time, or dismissal and they can possibly come back in five years,” Scheele said.
The panelists shared their personal feelings on the subject as well, saying that they were all striving for the same goal — to end sexual assault entirely.
“I don’t know why we are seeing this so much, but we are. It goes beyond just campus. We need to create a society in some way that we can stop it all the way around. This is a good place to create a culture of how we talk about sexual violence and violence in general,” Shaw said.
Vice President for Student Affairs Robert Dana and University President Susan Hunter were in attendance for the movie showing and seminar after, listening to what students had to say and what students would like to see change in the future.
“Bringing up these issues for public engagement is really important and we welcome partnerships with the students because UMaine deprives violence and we can’t tolerate it. We want students to know that this community has to all be a part of the solution,” Dana said. “We support each other, we listen to each other, we respect each other and if we see something, we say something.”