The term "sexual assault" has become strikingly and frighteningly synonymous with "college" in recent years, especially on the heels of the horrific Stanford case that captivated our news feeds earlier this summer. Early in my senior year, I came across a 2014 documentary by the name of, "It Happened Here." The film was released a year earlier than "The Hunting Ground." I actually found "It Happened Here" to strike more of a chord, telling the story of five college girls, Angie Epifano (Amherst College), Kylie Angell (UConn), Sarah O'Brien (Vanderbilt), Carolyn Luby (UConn) and Erica Daniels (UConn), their assaults and what they did to help future victims. The film's producer, Marjorie Nielsen, was kind enough to speak with me about the film and everything that went into it.
When asked how she approached the women in the film, Marjorie said, "There's resources and organizations where women have already come forth, where they've just taken action....The very first thing I did was contact Angie Epifano through the Amherst paper, and she got right back to us. And we started filming her two weeks later...we just started right away. And then from Angie I moved onto other — I just put the word out. I thought that would be the hard part — was getting women to speak."
On the contrary though, the difficult part wasn't getting the victims to talk, but their administrators, who came under fire after the women filed Title IX complaints against the schools (remember, three of the women featured were students at UConn — three).
Regarding the lack of women of color and male victims in the film, Marjorie admitted to having to fall on her sword for that one. She explained that though they tried to depict a cross-section of victims (from state schools, athletes, those in Greek life), it wasn't a full depiction. "It was not hard getting the women to come forth."
Marjorie empathizes with the steps schools have to take, "I feel bad for schools, I really do. They're not mental health experts, and they're not criminal experts. And they've got to get those resources unfortunately. And they've got to get them where they're accessible to the students."
Regarding the hesitation of victims to come forward, Marjorie equated it to that feeling of dread and unease we all feel at the sight of a cop car, whether or not we've done anything to warrant getting pulled over. We still feel guilty; we still feel like maybe we did something that could be misconstrued that maybe somehow brought about the controversial act. You'd think something along the lines of, "I was in his room, my bad....[You] just really start to blame yourself. Are you really going to call the cop[s]?"
The film hits home, not least for anyone who hasn't found solace in authority in a time of need.