A film about sexual assault on campus, “It Happened Here,” was presented by FORGE (Fighting for Our Rights and Gender Equality) in the Harriet Johnson Auditorium in Somsen Hall on Monday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m.
FORGE member Claire Arvidson, President Sam Atkins and professor Tamara Berg tended to a table outside of the auditorium, selling buttons for $1 and bottle openers for $2. They also collected tampon donations for shelters.
The film was about five women who attended Vanderbilt University, the University of Connecticut and Amherst College who are survivors of sexual assault. The documentary follows the students while they became activists against sexual assault on campus, exposing their campuses for their poor handling of the crimes on campus.
The women spoke about how their sense of security was gone, and how the negative feelings they felt afterwards and the anxiety, stress and feelings of violation affected them.
The film debunked the question, “What if the rape accusation was false?” by stating only two to eight percent of rape accusations are false, which is about the same amount of false accusations for any crime.
The women brought up Title IX to their schools, which is a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on gender and it also addresses sexual assault on campus. They wanted to make sure students knew their rights that they receive through Title IX.
The documentary concluded with the University of Connecticut creating new legislature for student rights, Amherst College making changes on how they handle sexual assault cases and how 90 other schools were under investigation for not handling crimes how they should.
After the film, there was an audience discussion. Treasurer Julie Roess, Secretary Madeline Mowery and President Atkins of FORGE joined the stage for the discussion.
An audience member asked how many sexual assault cases were reported on Winona State University’s campus last year.
“Zero, but we all know it’s not zero,” Berg said.
The audience member asked why Winona State would have zero reported if it was not true. She explained the reports count if the assaults happened on university property or the streets adjacent.
Berg mentioned the campus study emailed to all students last semester. Of the 1,531 that responded, 305 indicated that they experienced unwanted sexual contact usually from someone they knew. 268 of the 305 were undergraduate women. 65 percent of the survey respondents said they do not understand campus procedures for sexual assault.
Arvidson said that there needs to be a discussion about how to file a report for sexual assault in first-year orientation classes, because she didn’t know how to file until she was a junior.
Senior Andrea White said there are still zero reports after all her years here on campus, and hopes campus will continue to get better about sexual assault cases.
One student asked what the Winona State policy is if a student is found guilty of sexual assault.
Berg said it can be up to or including an expulsion. Arvidson said some of the students had to go to a “don’t rape” class, and had no accountability and no expulsion.
Atkins said after her assault, her counselor did not believe her story. Berg added that Atkins pursued her case and it was addressed.
“What makes a difference is student activism,” Berg said. “We wouldn’t have what resources we have today without it.”
Roess said she is glad she has strong women around her, and told the audience that FORGE is always a resource for help and support.