By Christian Colon
Sacred Heart University welcomed Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, two victims of sexual assault, to speak on the Edgerton Theatre stage about how they turned their experiences into a form of activism by travelling the nation and sharing their story.
On Sept. 21, they took part in the lecture series “The Hunting Ground,” titled after a film that features their experiences as well as those of other college students who are survivors of sexual assault.
“Going to college was a journey. I wanted to combine my love for sports and academics,” said Pino.
Pino was living a typical college life. One night during her sophomore year she went out partying. Partying led to dancing and dancing led to a bathroom where her head
was smashed against a wall and she was later sexually assaulted.
Clark shared a similar story. One night out with her friends ended with her being pulled outside and raped.
“I couldn’t perform like I used to because I had what had happened in the back of my mind,” said Clark.
Pino and Clark also shared their story on how they got to where they are now. They said they barely knew who each other were during their undergraduate years at the University of North Caroline (UNC). Clark was a senior, while Pino was a freshman.
“When I was a student, I thought that UNC should have a way to report sexual violence. A way to report things either anonymously or to someone who is not going to blame them, so I created a blind reporting system. It was similiar to restaurant comment cards,” said Clark.
Their friendship began when Pino decided to break her silence and completely share her story with someone else. After Pino realized that Clark was the creator of the anonymous reporting system, they began to get in contact. They started working together by researching the statistics and policies regarding sexual assault.
Research led them to discover that many university institutions were violating the Title IX United States policy. According to the Board of Education, no person in the country shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
“Sexual assault has been one of the highest serious level cases that we have here at the university. We are generally affecting a lot of lives when we make a decision. Not just the victim and the accuser but also how we respond to each of those instances affects things in terms of people coming forward or not,” said Larry Wielk, Dean of Students at Sacred Heart University.
According to “The Hunting Ground,” 88% of women sexually assaulted do not report. It is one of Clark and Pino’s goals to visit college campuses and make sure victims feel the support and get the justice they deserve. The Title IX policy has become a tool when supporting the hundreds of survivors they are in contact with. They want to let survivors know that there is a law that protects them as victims.
“It is really up to everyone to decide what to do in their own journey. Some survivors choose to go to the police and some choose to go to their university. Some choose to tell no one for years. I think it is important to recognize that there are a lot of factors that deter survivors from seeking help,” said Pino.
Freshman, Logan Gardner attended the lecture series and found Clark and Pino very informational. He said that this topic should be brought up more at Sacred Heart because of how big of problem it is on a national scale.
“It is unfortunate that one of the biggest things that has been ignored in the media conversation is the institutional responsibility for sexual violence. We want to make sure the university is doing its best to make sure that rape is treated as seriously as academic misconduct,” said Pino. “At every school students will hear for hours that if they are caught cheating they are going to be expelled, but it is not the same for sexual assault.”
Clark and Pino told the students that even if you don’t hear of any sexual assault cases, you should still join the movement to help bring awareness.
“It shouldn’t be a rape survivors job to end rape, the same way it shouldn’t be a colored persons problem to end racism,” said Clark.