KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
The new film "The Hunting Ground" starts with that moment when you find out you're getting into college.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE HUNTING GROUND")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) I got in. I got in. I got in.
MCEVERS: But then when you're watching the film, it doesn't take long to figure out that something might eventually go wrong. Especially these days, as we've been talking so much about rape on college campuses, you can't help but wonder, what's going to happen to these women when they go off to school? Annie Clark and Andrea Pino know the answer to that question. They are the main characters in the film and they join us now in the studio here in Washington, D.C.
Welcome to you both.
ANNIE CLARK: Hi, thanks for having us.
ANDREA PINO: Thanks for having us.
MCEVERS: And a warning to listeners - this conversation could have some disturbing content. Andrea, you were the first person in your family to go to college and you went off to the University of North Carolina. You were excited when you found out you got in. You were thinking everything was going to be great.
PINO: Yeah. I mean I definitely was one of those students that, you know, cried and threw their laptop on the floor and couldn't believe I was going. And not only was I going to college, I was going to my dream school. And you know, I never thought that these campuses were anything but safe.
MCEVERS: Are you comfortable talking about what happened?
PINO: Yeah. I mean it was my sophomore year and, you know, I went with some friends to a party and ended up being dragged into a bathroom and violently sexually assaulted.
MCEVERS: And so, did you eventually report it?
PINO: I didn't really think about reporting it at first, and mainly because I didn't know who he was. I didn't have anyone that had seen what had happened, so how could I tell somebody if I didn't even know what the whole story was? I ended up dropping my name in an anonymous reporting box that was actually created by Annie Clark when she came forward for the first time in 2007.
MCEVERS: Annie Clark, who's sitting right here.
CLARK: Yeah, so when I was assaulted in 2007, I was actually met with a very victim-blaming response. And I wasn't even trying to formally report, I was actually just trying to get resources. I had talked to one campus employee and she gave me this extended metaphor about how rape was like a football game and I was the quarterback in charge, and what would I have done differently in that situation? And it was at that time that I decided that you shouldn't have to go into an office and formally say something, so I came up with the idea of anonymous reporting boxes, literal boxes on the wall that had resources and also reporting forms so you could take a form without having to have that face-to-face initial conversation so it would be on your terms. Andrea used that box to report her own sexual assault and after realizing that I created it, she reached out to me. And so we started talking and, you know, realized that this was not an isolated incident, that it was a national epidemic and no one had really connected the dots because we had been looking at these cases in isolation.
MCEVERS: And so then the two of you started doing research about something called Title IX.
PINO: Yeah, so Title IX is a gender equity law and what it guarantees is equal access to educational programs. If you have a campus that has rampant sexual assault, there is no equal access mainly because you know, female students do not feel safe going to libraries, they do not take night classes, they do not feel safe walking home at night. And because of that, the campus itself is not equal.
MCEVERS: And so then the two of you eventually brought a complaint, a Title IX complaint against the University of North Carolina. It seems like people started coming out of the woodwork, no?
CLARK: It took a while for the issue to get traction because how are two 20-somethings going to take on a 200-year-old university and have it become a thing? And what we realized though, with the framing of it, we said, this is not about UNC. We're not doing this to vilify our institution. In fact, we love our institution and it's because we love our institution that we have this sense of responsibility to call out, you know, when something's going wrong. And it's no accident that you can hear a story in New York and it matches one in Texas.
MCEVERS: Right. I mean, I think that's one of the most astounding things about this film - the sheer numbers of people. I mean the faces, the names, the stories just come pouring out. Actually, I want us to listen to another clip here from the film.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE HUNTING GROUND")
SOPHIE KRASIK: Good morning and thank you for your attendance at this important event. My name is Sophie Krasik (ph) and I'm a third-year student here at the University of California Berkeley.
MEGAN WARNER: My name is Megan Warner (ph).
IMAN STINSON: My name is Iman Stinson (ph).
SHANNON THOMAS: My name is Shannon Thomas (ph) and I'm a proud, fourth-year, soon-to-be graduate of UC Berkeley. I'm a survivor of a sexual assault that occurred less than a year ago.
MCEVERS: I mean, were you surprised by how many women came forward?
PINO: I don't think so much surprised, you know, by the sheer number of them. I think it's been something that has really inspired me, I mean, seeing so many different types of survivors sharing their story and fighting their battle every day.
MCEVERS: I mean, campus rape has been more in the news lately, I mean, thanks to activists like you and other people who are bringing this to our attention. But then of course, there was the article in Rolling Stone about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. Some of the details in that article have now come into question. And I guess I wanted to ask you, like, what do you think about the direction that conversation has gone now?
CLARK: You know, the media just picks apart every bit of a survivor's story. And what we know from research, particularly about trauma and memory, is that these stories, they're true. But you know, you might remember some detail - I can talk about, you know, my own experience. I remember things very clearly but I don't remember the exact time. Does that mean something didn't happen? And the answer is no. So we don't know what happened in Jackie's case. I don't know her, I haven't talked to her. But I do believe something happened there. And the fact that UVA has been under investigation and that's not even brought into this conversation - instead, it's attacking the victim instead of looking at the systemic problem at UVA and other schools.
MCEVERS: Yeah. I mean, by the end of this film, we see the two of you organizing press conferences, you now have an organization called End Rape on Campus. You basically have gone from being rape survivors to political activists on the national stage. Has going through this transformation helped you deal with what happened to you?
PINO: You know, I think back to what got me to step up at my campus. It's that same motivation that gets me, you know, to come here to D.C. and lobby Congress, and that gets me to go to different campuses and talk to students, help empower them too.
MCEVERS: But it's not for everybody right, Annie? I mean, that's, you know, that's not - doesn't have to be everybody's path, right?
CLARK: Yeah, I definitely want to point out that there are many ways to heal and there are many ways to be an activist. And that it's just simply doing what is right and best for you. And I think we need to trust survivors, especially in their decision to report or go to counseling and trusting to know - for them to know what's best for them.
MCEVERS: Right. If you someday had a son or a daughter, and they were going off to college, have you thought about, you know, what you would say?
CLARK: I think for me, when or if I have kids, I would hope that we start talking about this issue way earlier. The fact that the first time, you know, many people hear about sexual assault is at college orientation, is way too late.
PINO: I think it's the same thing I tell parents, you know, who are taking their kids on the tours, as soon as they get onto campus and even before, you know, what are their rights under Title IX, what are their rights as students, what resources do they have and what do schools do about it?
MCEVERS: What do you say to students themselves?
CLARK: Yeah, I would hope all students know that they have the right to a safe education and fair learning environment. And I really hope that we put the burden on men, you know, to say, don't rape, you know? Instead of telling the women, here's a safety whistle. That conversation needs to change. But I will say, you know, I know survivors out there are listening right now I just would like them to know that it's not your fault and I believe you and you are not alone.
MCEVERS: Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, who are featured in the film "The Hunting Ground," thank you both so much.
PINO: Thank you for having us.
CLARK: Thank you for having us.
MCEVERS: "The Hunting Ground" is a documentary about campus rape that opens in theaters today. CNN is planning to broadcast the documentary later this year.
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