by Katie Iskra
Last Monday night, Millsaps students gathered together to watch a documentary film screening, sponsored by The Office of Student Life, Millsaps Women & Gender Studies program, and Millsaps Athletics. The Hunting Ground is described as “a startling exposé of sexual assault on U.S. campuses, institutional cover-ups and the brutal social toll on victims and their families.” Throughout the 60-minute film, the audience sat in disbelief, listening to jaw-dropping statistics about how frequently sexual assault is occurring on college campuses, and how often these crimes are dismissed without retribution.
After the film, there was a question-and-answer segment with a panel of six people who are actively involved in sexual assault prevention on our campus: Dean Brit Katz, Zane Ballard, Adriana Lopez-Esteban, Penta Moore, Lori Genous, and Dr. Kathryn Hahn. Students asked important questions about our own safety here on Millsaps campus and what the administration is doing to help prevent sexual misconduct.
While the documentary as a whole brought a crushing realization of the frequency of sexual assault on college campuses, the most disheartening part of this screening was the lack of gender diversity in the audience. The crowded auditorium was filled with female students and faculty but was lacking in male viewers. In total there were roughly 10 men in attendance.
This is a very serious problem, one that is not uncommon to college campuses across the United States. As a community, how can we expect to raise awareness about sexual assault when such a large demographic of our student body isn’t even there?
Ladies and gentlemen, the statistics say it all: one out of five women and one out of 16 men will be sexually assaulted while in college; nine out of 10 of these victims will know their attacker. Sexual assault is rampant on college campuses.
Documentaries like The Hunting Ground and the conversations they promote work to educate both women and men. It is likely that you may personally have to deal with a sexual assault situation or encounter someone that has experienced sexual assault. Whether it is yourself, a family member, a friend or a colleague, you should be provided with knowledge of what constitutes sexual assault and the proactive ways in which you can react to a sexual assault situation.
What will it take for our student body to realize that sexual assault is a prevalent problem in our society; a problem that we can work together to eliminate? Do we need to make these meetings, forums, and discussions mandatory in order to clearly understand what is and is not sexual assault?
We’re all familiar with the “Millsaps Bubble” and how small it can feel at times. How everyone seems to know your business and how rumors spread like wildfire. The “hook up culture” we currently live in has provided us with misconceptions about what constitutes rape, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, etc. The first step to take to help prevent sexual misconduct on our campus is to educate us—women and men—on what defines sexual misconduct.