By Austin Wolfe
York College partnered with State Representative (and York College alumnus) Kevin Schreiber, First Lady Frances Wolf, the Pennsylvania Commission for Women, It’s On Us PA and the YWCA of York for a screening and panel discussion of Kirby Dick’s documentary, “The Hunting Ground” on Wednesday, Oct. 19. The event, hosted at the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center in downtown York, aimed to raise awareness for the ongoing sexual assault epidemic occurring on college campuses.
The evening began with remarks from York County Commissioner Susan Brynes, First Lady Frances Wolf, Rep. Kevin Schreiber, YWCA CEO Jean Treuthart, Student Senate President Abhi Kudaravalli, and Strand-Capitol CEO Todd Fogdall.
“When my husband introduced the Its On Us PA campaign, we became the first state to initiate a statewide effort to protect students from sexual assault,” said Frances Wolf. “Through grants and other resources, we hope to encourage educators to take a stand and find a solution to this serious issue.”
The Its On Us PA campaign was launched by the Wolf administration on January 29, 2016.
“In Pennsylvania, there were an estimated 12,875 sexual assaults last year alone,” said Kevin Schreiber. “One in five women who attend college experience sexual assault. That is unacceptable, and we must make a change. This also affects men, as one in 20 men experience sexual assault in college. Most men are not perpetrators. Unfortunately, most perpetrators are men. Gentlemen, we must be part of the solution.”
York College recently received a 300,000 federal grant from the Justice Department to help fight sexual assault on campus.
“We can show survivors that they do not have to do it alone. We must create an environment where sexual assault is unacceptable,” said Student Senate President Abhi Kudaravalli. “This requires action, and that is why our student senate recently passed an initiative to publicly embrace the Its On Us PA campaign.” Kudaravalli, a member of Kappa Delta Rho, also expressed support from YCP’s Greek Life. “Greek Life at York College does not tolerate sexual assault.”
Before the screening, audience members were informed that private counseling sessions would be available for anyone who was triggered from the content of the documentary.
“The Hunting Ground” offered a harrowing look into the reality of sexual assaults on college campuses. Particularly, the documentary highlights problems survivors face with reporting assaults, victim-blaming culture, Greek Life’s influence on rape culture, and institutional incentives to keep sexual assaults from the public eye.
Following the screening, Commissioners Patti Stirk and Jessica Brubaker, from the Pennsylvania Commission for Women, led a panel discussion with college administrators and victim-assistance experts. Panelists offered advice for reporting and preventing sexual assault.
“This is an issue that can’t be stopped immediately. We must nurture support systems, build resiliency, and consciously make efforts to change the culture surrounding sexual assault survivors,” said panelist and Chief Public Affairs Officer for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape Kristen Houser.
Dr. Dellicarpini, Dean of the York College Center for Community Engagement, was in attendance for the event.
“Over 100 York College students attended tonight’s event. That’s great, but the conversation cannot end here. It was evident from the documentary that student activism is key to changing the culture of sexual assaults on campus,” said Dellicarpini. “We need to do better, and, due to perpetrator demographics, it’s especially important that men take a stand on the issue.”
York College has been provided with the necessary resources to take a stand against sexual assault. However, any positive change will depend on the actions of the student body. Students must work to create an environment that not only supports victims, but assures them that their community, regardless of gender or affiliations, will do everything in their power to bring perpetrators to justice and prevent further assaults.
The first step is taking the Its On Us pledge. Visit itsonus.org and make the personal commitment to “recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault. To identify situations in which sexual assault may occur. To intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given. To create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.”
Community leaders take the pledge. Pictured from the back row from the left are Patti Stirk, Abhi Kudaravalli, Frances Wolf, Jean Truethart, Kevin Schrieber. From the front left are Todd Fogdall, Kristen Houser, Jessica Brubaker.