I recently watched the CNN documentary, The Hunting Ground, which is about sexual assault on college campuses. I have mixed emotions about the film. I am committed to raising awareness about this issue, which is the main topic that I speak about on campuses all over North America.
So I was relieved that sexual assault on campuses is in the spotlight and continues to get press coverage.
I was moved by the courage of the victims and the former deans, staff, and faculty who risked their jobs and their reputations in order to stand up for the assault survivors.
It takes a lot of guts to stand up to an institution and it takes guts to put yourself on film.
I lost my innocence when I was 12, so I can’t relate to being a virgin in college. But I respect that some men and women are, and that many come to college with very innocent and naive views of the world. To hear one young woman’s story of how she was tricked by a male friend into coming over to a “party” that turned out to just be a set up, was devastating.
As she told her story, I kept thinking: how can we set these young women up better? And men, because it happens to men too, they just report it even less.
Why isn’t personal safety a required course in high school?
Why aren’t we hosting numerous trainings and self-defense sessions throughout orientations and the first semester or year?
Sexual assault is like addiction. No one wants to talk about it, but it affects most of us. It’s all over our culture, and it’s not a one time conversation-check-the-box-we’re-done-here-now.
Sexual predators are sick people. Many of them do not think that what they are doing is wrong. They don’t think of themselves as rapists because they are using alcohol or drugs instead of knives or guns.
Most men will never rape or assault anyone. Most men want to respect others and do the right thing.
Sexual predators are usually repeat offenders. Most of them have 2-8 assaults before they get caught or have to move on. Predators pick out their victims. They prey on new students, nervous students, naive students.
That’s one reason why it’s so important to report every single assault, because then we can learn about the repeat offenders faster.
Take Action on College Campuses
I think we need to model what MADD did to change our culture and our laws. Many years ago, it was socially acceptable to drink and drive. People knew it was bad to do, but the general public was apathetic about it, it was a taboo subject, accidents just happened, and people looked the other way.
Until one mother, Becca, in Florida, lost her 17-year-old son to a drunk driver and she said: Enough! She started the first chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and with her grief, she started a whole movement. She started talking and got other mothers enrolled and soon had legislation changed to regulate the drinking age in all 50 states and the speed limits.
With the help of law makers and law enforcement, they also did public service announcements to raise awareness and to educate the general public. And today, although some people still drink and drive, more people don’t do it, and it’s not socially acceptable to do so anymore.
This cultural shift started with one woman who focused on a solution. And that is what I am out to do here, in our culture.
We need to raise awareness about how to stay safe socially. I want to talk to young people about SEX and why it’s so confusing and confronting and uncomfortable.
I keep thinking of that young, naive freshman and how I could have helped her. I wish I could have had a session with her and gone over social situations to watch out for. I would have taught her danger signs.
I would have told her my story. Maybe I could have prevented her assault and her pain.
And so, I’m grateful that they made this documentary, The Hunting Ground. It’s a topic we need to talk about and keep talking about it. It has added fuel to my fire to keep going and talking on campuses all over; to tell my story and use my humor to educate about this tough subject.
Yes, we can deal with it better. Thank goodness this conversation has been started and brought into the spotlight. There is more work to do.