Fighting Rape On Campus: Talking With Two Heroes From 'The Hunting Ground'

In this signature espnW column, Allison Glock sits down for a candid Q&A with a remarkable person or, in this case, remarkable people. The aim is to cover topics high and low, deep and less so, to present a fresh look at folks we think we know and meet some others we wish we'd known all along. Sometimes it gets personal. Welcome to The Conversation.

Caution: Adult themes ahead.


Who: Activists and heroes of the powerful campus rape documentary "The Hunting Ground," Andrea Pino, 23, and Annie Clark, 25. Both attended the University of North Carolina.

Where: In Los Angeles, between flights, on their multistate speaking tour in support of the film and their nonprofit, End Rape on Campus (EROC).

When: April 22.

Allison Glock: How has your life has been since the release of the film in January?

Andrea Pino: We've been traveling nonstop across the country, helping survivors, speaking at campuses. We've been on the road more than a month.

Annie Clark: We haven't paid our Internet because we haven't used it.

Glock: You two share an apartment now?

Clark: Yes. And we're about to relocate to D.C. We will finally have our own rooms. It's so exciting.

Pino: We've been working with the film for two years. It has greatly impacted our lives. It started when I was a junior in college. I'm 23 now. This is not the path I thought my life would take, and it is certainly not for everyone.

Glock: Give us a little background on how you two met and became friends.

Clark: When I was a senior at UNC, Andrea was a first-year. When I was still at school, after my assault, I created an anonymous system called The Box Project that allowed women to report rape and assault without being blamed. This was in 2010. Basically, the project mounted secured boxes in university bathrooms alongside resource brochures and reporting forms. That way a woman could submit a claim and feel counted without going through the whole process, with no one shaming her. It was discreet. Only the dean of students could access the box with a key.

Anyway, Andrea reported her assault that way first. By then, I'd graduated and was working at the University of Oregon. And she reached out to me after, and said, "Hey, I used your system, but the larger school policy hasn't changed." And seeing what I was seeing at Oregon, I knew she was right. So she came to stay with me, and that's where everything jelled. Those talks led to co-founding EROC.

Glock: Your activism was sparked after you were both assaulted as students at UNC, and then seeing how seemingly little the university cared about addressing the crimes. There's a line in "The Hunting Ground" from a survivor who says, heartbreakingly, of her school, "I thought they would believe me just because it actually happened."

Clark: When I reported my assault, I was given this Monday morning quarterback analogy. I was told my rape was a football game and I was the quarterback, and they said, "Looking back now, what would you do differently?"

Pino: When I went public, I was told I was creating a hostile environment at UNC. When I explained to a professor what was happening and how it was affecting my grades, I was told I was lazy, and it was suggested that maybe I couldn't handle Carolina. I dropped that class. Then I dropped 11 more classes after that. I'm still not an official graduate.

[When asked for comment, Rick White, UNC's associate vice chancellor for communications and public affairs, told espnW, "We are unable to comment on specific allegations because of our students' privacy rights and an ongoing federal investigation. However, all reports of sexual assault or sexual misconduct made to the University are investigated as thoroughly as possible by trained investigators.

Over the past two years we have worked hard to create an environment where students could feel comfortable and know exactly where to seek support and/or to report an incident. Specifically, we have focused on raising awareness about support and response options, including interim protective measures such as academic accommodations that may allow for changes to course schedules and assignments. We have also provided training for our support and resource staff that emphasizes the importance of providing a nurturing and compassionate response to those students who are seeking assistance."]

Glock: Institutionalized disregard for the rights of rape survivors is shown time and again in "The Hunting Ground." Schools dismiss or ignore complaints, blame the violence on the victims, fail to inform victims about how to process their complaints. They see victims as public relations problems, and many survivors say in the film that their treatment by the university they loved was almost as bad as the assault itself.

Pino: There is more of a deterrent for coming forward than actually committing rape. And it is more likely that the survivor will drop out before an assailant will leave campus. Nobody is expelled, nobody goes to prison, so it continues to be a part of college life.

Glock: For example, at Stanford, over 13 years, 175 assaults were reported, four hearings took place and two students were found responsible.

Pino: Yeah.

Glock: And the punishments that are doled out by various schools are laughable. The rapist is fined $25. Or the rapist is expelled -- after graduation.

Clark: Sometimes they are asked to write a reflective essay. Or a book report.

Pino: It's shocking. But as appalling as it is, it isn't uncommon. We hear all the time, "Boys will be boys." Or, "This is a time to learn." But you don't get to learn on other people's bodies.

Glock: I was assaulted by a masked stranger who broke into my room in college. The first thing the police asked me was whether I'd "done something to piss off my boyfriend."

Clark: Or, "Were you intoxicated? Did you consent to this but not that?" After those questions, you start to blame yourself. We need to have a national conversation about the difference between sex and rape.

Glock: As Camilla, a survivor in the film so deftly says of the man who drugged and assaulted her, "If [he] wanted to introduce sex, when I was awake would have been a good time."

Pino: The good news is we've watched something no one ever spoke about -- campus assault -- become the top of the national agenda.

Glock: You're referring to the Campus Accountability and Safety Act.

Pino: Yes. Introduced by Sen. Claire McCaskill, along with nine co-sponsors, the act is an attempt to incentivize colleges and universities to address the problem of campus assault by establishing enforceable Title IX penalties.

Glock: "The Hunting Ground" states that 16 to 20 percent of undergraduate women are sexually assaulted in college [citing Barnard's campus climate survey, among others].

Pino: And rather than holding assailants accountable, schools are rewarded for sweeping the issue under the rug. The ultimate penalty for violating Title IX is the withdrawal of all federal funding to an institution, but that has literally never happened. With the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, schools could be fined 1 percent of their operating budgets, which would be a giant step forward.

Glock: Tell me how you came to choose Title IX as your way into fighting campus assault.

Clark: A lot of research. [laughs] We read Alexander v. Yale, the case which was the first use of Title IX in charges of sexual harassment, and established that harassment constituted a hostile [educational] environment. Andrea was in a class studying policy as a junior. I had already graduated and was working at the University of Oregon, where I was seeing the same issues that had been problematic at UNC. And what I realized was that people didn't know who was being impacted. All we knew about were the Jane Does. And because of that, the media was framing campus assault as episodic, not systemic.

Pino: We thought, what if we could connect the Jane Does across the country? If we could combine cases and take collective action. So we filed a federal complaint. You don't have to be an attorney to file. I was 20 years old at the time.

Glock: You attached your names, and the names of several other petitioners, which wasn't customary. What happened when you went public?

Pino: Initially we were ridiculed. But pretty soon, through social media, we connected with other women across the country, and it became a tool. Students now have the option to seek justice beyond the university. We loved our school, but they needed to be held accountable.

Clark: The press also blew us off in the beginning. They were like, "That's cute what you're doing."

Pino: It's not so cute now.

Glock: Indeed. A year after you filed, the White House announced a task force to address the problem. How did you feel when you received that letter from the Department of Education opening an investigation into your Title IX complaint?

Clark: We didn't know what to expect from the filing. We didn't have any precedent or conversation that told us what was coming, or what it would mean. It was trial and error. When the letter came, I almost fell down. We were so excited because it meant validation.

Pino: It gave us all hope this wouldn't go uninvestigated or unpunished. Title IX guarantees us a right to an equal education. Keeping assailants on campus is a violation.

Glock: It seems preposterous that you need a law to tell you it is unfair to keep rapists on campus.

Pino: My little sister was a junior in high school when I was raped. And she was terrified. Like, "Way to ruin college for me." She was kidding, of course, but it's so easy to be scared. With "The Hunting Ground," people are now all trying to find the school where it isn't a problem. But the only thing we should be worrying about is fixing the problem, because that school doesn't exist. If this isn't happening to you, it's happening to your girlfriend. A friend of my sister's actually was assaulted her freshman year, and at least my sister knew what to do and how to help. She could tell her friend what her rights were.

Clark: Parents always ask me, "What should I tell my daughter?" The conversation has to happen before college -- in middle school, in high school. Girls need to know their rights under Title IX. You have a right to a safe education. Avoiding the library at night, or changing your major because your rapist is in your classes, those are not solutions and that is not OK.

Glock: What kept you from becoming part of the 88 percent of women raped on college campuses who don't report? [As cited in the film.] Were there people who tried to talk you out of fighting back?

Clark: After hearing Andrea's story, I knew I had a responsibility to do something. But I could never have sustained this fight without her. We had one former dean who signed on to our complaint. Some faculty members want to be allies, but if they don't have tenure, they are afraid. Shaming and silence comes from leadership. You get a lot of hatred and backlash. I have been surprised by some of that pushback. It hurts. It's very real.

Pino: I had friends suggest I should stop talking about my assault. Or that it was a "bad hookup."

Glock: You were knocked unconscious in a bathroom by a stranger.

Pino: I had some friends stop speaking to me, who blocked me on Facebook because I was making it uncomfortable for other students. People don't want to think rape could happen.

Glock: So they shoot the messenger. This is especially the case with women who report assaults by athletes. Lizzy Seeberg committed suicide after the harassment that followed her reporting she was assaulted by a Notre Dame football player. [According to Suicide.org, about 33 percent of rape victims contemplate suicide, and 13 percent attempt it.] The film also features Erica Kinsman, the woman who accused former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston of raping her in 2012 and has filed a civil lawsuit against him. [Winston, who was never criminally charged in the alleged incident and was cleared at a student code of conduct hearing, has since won the Heisman Trophy, while Kinsman has dropped out of FSU.]

Clark: Whenever there is a protected group on campus -- sports or Greek life -- the university wraps its arms around them. With someone like Winston, a top draft pick, the whole country wraps their arms around him.

Pino: And legally, the athlete is a protected class. Campus police are instructed not to contact athletes directly. Adjudication of charges against athletes are kept internal. So a victim comes forward and they are told that the athletic department will handle it. And what happens is maybe the rapist sits out a game -- that's rare. Or maybe they have to run extra laps. We've heard that at various schools. The priority is always the athlete. Not justice. It makes you question the mission of the school.

Glock: What were your feelings when ESPN commentators Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith described the allegations against Winston as "terribly unfair" and suspiciously timed?

Pino: Those comments were totally ignorant. People didn't listen to Erica's side. Nor did they have possession of the facts. People saying, "Oh, of course it comes out now." She actually reported her rape a year before. The coverage hearkens back to Steubenville, where everyone was talking about how "unfair" it was for this young woman to ruin the lives of the men accused. Nobody wanted to look at their actions.

Glock: How do you correct people who accuse women of false accusations?

Pino: According to the FBI, rape has the same percentage of false reports as any other crime, around 2 percent. [There is some discussion about this number, with some outlets putting it at 2 to 8 percent.]

Glock: Yet no one is calling foul on reported burglaries or identity thefts. Why is the first response to reporting assault or rape one of doubt?

Pino: It's crazy. Just the fact that false accusations get equal balance in the conversation is absurd.

Clark: If this was any other crime ... say one in five students were contracting meningitis, or one in five students were having their MacBooks stolen, people would be freaking out. And for argument, let's say it's only one in 100 women being raped on campus. That's still way too many.

Pino: If anything, the stats are low. [According to RAINN, an average of 68 percent of all assaults in the past five years were estimated to not have been reported.] ... And the only data the university has to release are reports that happen on campus. So, any assault that happens in [an off-campus] frat house or bar or elsewhere doesn't figure in. Then you also have a massive incentive to underreport. Self-policing doesn't work. You can't have stats provided by the very people invested in keeping numbers low.

Glock: The Rolling Stone magazine debacle with the UVa case has added quite a bit of fuel to the false-accusation fire.

Clark: I don't know Jackie [subject of the story]. I don't know how she was interviewed. But this should be an opportunity to talk about traumatic memory. One thing I learned from the Rolling Stone controversy is that not every victim is ready to come forward. Once you are in the public eye you lose an element of control. You don't know how alumni, campus, media or other students will respond.

Pino: The easy solution is to think that it is all made up. To say the whole Rolling Stone story is evidence of some big lie. But I don't see anyone connecting the dots to other cases, like the one at Vanderbilt.

Glock: You mean the case where several football players were convicted of raping, assaulting and urinating on an unconscious victim, capturing much of the assault on their iPhones.

Pino: Yes. Penetration with a bottle. The reaction of the public was, That is so awful, that can't be real. She must be lying. But it was real. And they were all convicted. And with the cases we see all over the country, they are part of a pattern.

Clark: To acknowledge when something like this happens in your community, it's hard. We want to blame the outsider. The scary man in the bushes. But when it is someone in your English class, we don't want to believe as a society that one student can rape or assault another student.

Pino: No one wants to believe it can be the attractive guy in your dorm or the athlete with the big smile. But it can be, and is. We have frat houses teaching pledges where to get roofies. That's the reality.

Glock: What is the biggest misconception people have about rape?

Pino: That the assailant is someone you don't know. I didn't know mine. But he was a fellow student. [According to the National Institute of Justice, about 85 to 90 percent of sexual assaults reported by college women are committed by an acquaintance.]

Clark: That you can avoid assault by living in the right neighborhood, or by not wearing heels, or carrying pepper spray -- all of these responsibilities that are put on women and don't prevent anything. Most rapes happen in what you think are safe spaces. Closed systems.

Pino: Also the steps you take after an assault -- going to the hospital, reporting to the police -- those don't work when that person is a star athlete.

Glock: So what can women do?

Pino: Know your rights. You have a right to a safe education. Support your fellow women. We should act like sisters. I saw women being cornered at parties, women tipsy or out of it and left on their own. I would have loved if someone had checked on me when my assault was happening. Nobody thought to ask if I was OK. Women don't know how important they can be in a person's life.

Clark: Understand you will likely have more support outside of your university than you will inside the system. If you contact us at EROC we can help with direct resources, connect you with pro bono therapists and attorneys. We also help file complaints. We have connections across the country. We are growing the network every single day.

Pino: We both studied political science. And we both still want to go to law school. It's just delayed.

Clark: This has taken over.

Glock: You are immersed in discussion about rape and assault 24/7. That must extract a toll.

Pino: It can feel very hopeless. UNC still hasn't expelled anyone for sexual assault. [The university did not comment on this statement.] But this work can be encouraging as well. Often we are the first positive conversation a survivor has. And that can be very fulfilling. I also have a happy little dog that helps me think about life in a different way.

Clark: It's a blessing and a curse that I can now read so many articles about survivors going through what I went through. Coming forward is not for everyone. But if you do, you experience that solidarity. You learn that you didn't do something wrong, that this culture is really messed up. Not you.

Pino: The women we work with are so inspiring -- their resilience. At Columbia, they are still protesting. Emma [Sulkowicz, a Columbia student protesting her alleged rapist's continued enrollment] is still carrying her mattress. It is really hard to keep going when nobody is supporting you, when the school is threatening you.

Clark: A student at Skidmore had more than 200 students come to her hearing to support her. If you'd told me that could happen when I started this, I would never have believed you.

Pino: Women are starting make the issue a priority now; the timeline for change is happening faster. We are connecting in ways women never have before.

AG: And if someone you know is assaulted? What should you do?

Pino: It can be as simple as asking if they are OK.

Clark: And telling them they are not alone. That it is not their fault. That you believe them.

Pino: It can be revolutionary to be believed.