By Rachel Roach
On April 6 Alpha Chi Omega, a sorority at the University of Utah, held an event that was about domestic violence, which is Alpha Chi Omega’s philanthropy. They showed the documentary “The Hunting Ground”, directed by Kirby Dick and produced by Amy Ziering. This documentary follows two survivors, Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, who are changing domestic violence on college campuses all by themselves. Throughout the movie they are “ingeniously employing Title IX legal strategy to fight back,” according to The Hunting Ground’s website. They help survivors realize that they don’t have to just deal with the traumatic event that happened to them. This documentary really pushes the limits because it challenges a lot of popular universities and reveals that they are hiding the fact that they are victim blaming and not taking these reports of sexual assault seriously.
After the screening of “The Hunting Ground” there were multiple speakers. Ranging from domestic violence survivors to advocates for survivors.
I interviewed Jodi Peterson, a Victim’s Advocate from the University of Utah, that spoke about what she does at the university. Jodi believes that, “the University has done a lot by hiring [two] full time advocates,” but there is always room for improvement. “At this point it’s just a matter of educating the University about rape culture, rape myths, and victim blaming.”
I wondered what Jodi thinks about documentaries like “The Hunting Ground”. Do movies like this make a difference in our society? “I think it is good because it shines a light on the reality of sexual assault against college students. I think it makes administration take a closer look at how they handle sexual assault and rape cases within their institution.” says Jodi. “I don’t know that it makes a difference in our society if people see the movie, get angry about it, but then never do anything to help solve the problem.”
So what can people do after they watch “The Hunting Ground” to change our society for the better? “What we can do as individuals is to not [let] that mentality exist in our space. Let people know if they say something that’s sexist, degrading to women, or that perpetuates a rape myth.”
I also interviewed one of the survivors that spoke about her experience, she is apart of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority. Lexi Northrup wanted to talk about her experience, but she “struggled immensely with how [she] would portray the experience and how much detail [she] wanted to share with the audience.” Northrup felt that “sharing [her] story could help at least one person,” and that is what motivated her to talk about her experience with domestic violence.
Although it was hard for her to talk publicly about what had happened to her she knew that it was an important thing to do. It has been a struggle for her to deal with the fact that this traumatic experience actually happened to her, but she has had an incredible support system that has helped her heal. “At times I struggled with having so many people surrounding me with support,” she says “but ultimately in the end their support was the only way I was able to surpass the trauma and pain my assault causes me.” When asked what advice would she give to someone who has experienced sexual assault in their life she simply stated, “Don’t push people away.”
Even though it can be hard to let people in, it is better than pushing everyone away and being alone in the end. Talking to people about the experiences that the survivor has gone through has been proven to help them heal. “For many survivors, support is a crucial part of the healing process, and receiving compassionate and validating responses from friends and family can make a real difference.” according to Pandora’s Project, a nonprofit organization that provides support to sexual assault survivors and their friends and family.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website, “Numbers reveal that one in three women in Utah will experience domestic violence, compared to one in four nationwide,” and that “every nine seconds in the US, a woman is assaulted or beaten.” Our social norm should be that domestic violence is a thing of the past. This is an important topic because most everyone knows someone who has experienced domestic violence. A lot of people don’t like to make it a public announcement to everyone that they have been sexually assaulted, so you might know someone, but not know that they have gone through this experience of sexual assault.
It is important to be informed about what to do if the situation were to ever happen. A lot of people think that it won’t happen to them, or to someone they know, but in reality it is very likely to happen.
Alpha Chi Omega is a group of women that want to change those statistics. They want it so everyone feels safe walking to class at night alone or walking from a party back to their car. These are the type of people who will change things for the better because they realize a problem and they want to fix it.