Pictured: Andrea Pino and Annie Clark used phone, email, in-person visits, and every social media platform available to empower young women across the country who previously felt marginalized: “No one connected the dots before.”
We did not expect that before the age of 25, either of us would be making headlines, let alone headlines for taking on a major educational institution, and we certainly did not expect these headlines to read “Attention Rapists: You’ve Met Your Match.” That being said, we were ready for it, and we were ready to take on more than the University of North Carolina (UNC).
Students expect what college and university brochures advertise: the best four years of their life and an excellent education. Perhaps some of you have just dropped off your kids to college. If you said good-bye to your daughter in a room with more than four other female students, U.S. Department of Justice statistics indicate that one of them will be raped this year. What is more, if they come forward, they will most likely meet with a shocking disregard. At UNC, after independently reporting our assaults to the administration, we were faced with indifference, ignorance and nonchalance.
Although it was just two years ago, there was almost no media coverage about sexual assault on college campuses, or the ways in which it was affecting hundreds of thousands of students every year. Alone, we spent hours researching Title IX and other federal laws that were intended to protect survivors of sexual assault — laws of which we were never informed by UNC.
We didn’t have the funds to hire an attorney and our concerns about student safety were not shared by university administrators. Though the struggle of coming forward took its toll, we learned more than we ever expected, especially the power that relentless activism could have to change our community and the national conversation.
Our stories, featured in a new film The Hunting Ground, were that of ordinary young women who wanted to end rape culture and ensure that no more college students would be met with the attitudes that met us. In January 2013, when we submitted our federal Title IX complaint to the US Department of Education, one of the first of its kind, we filed not as “Jane Does,” but as Annie E. Clark and Andrea Pino, and not through legal representation but on our own.
Within days of coming forward, dozens of students reached out to us over social media, echoing, sadly, our same stories: assault, indifference and a drive to fight back. We realized that we could connect with other students and teach them what we taught ourselves; we had no training to help them emotionally, but at least we could just listen and amplify each other’s stories all over the national news. We used email, twitter, phone and every social media platform we could think of to let people just tell their stories. Something began to happen. We felt our voices grow stronger, and we felt the establishment’s power to mute us wane. Soon we were hearing from people all around the country, not only from schools like UCLA, Yale, Harvard and Stanford, but from religious colleges as well. We grew stronger from knowing we weren’t alone. The response was viral. In 2013, we were a handful of 20-somethings taking on a 200-year-old university with more money and resources than we could ever imagine, but within a few months we had something they didn’t have: a movement.
No school could ignore students anymore, because what was happening at UNC was happening everywhere, and we could help others seek justice. Two months after filing the federal complaint, the New York Times did an in-depth expose of the student movement to end campus sexual violence, followed by cover stories from TIME, New York Magazine, and other major papers across the country and abroad.
Schools began changing policies that were once set in stone, and Senators began speaking out in support of legislation. We were touching a nerve in our nation — students weren’t the only ones who wanted change.
For us, the greatest lesson we learned was that we could change the conversation around sexual violence and challenge the structures that had long supported perpetrators: not with years of experience or large financial resources, but with the passion and courage we had for justice. That is why, with our non-profit End Rape On Campus, we still visit campuses today and tell students that the greatest weapon of all is the belief that you can challenge rape culture and that everyday activism and perseverence can create a movement. Today there are 129 colleges and universities under federal investigation for sexual assault.
We offer this article to the Wexner network because we understand as leaders, you study how to make change (and then make it!). We also understand the Jewish community is eager to gain insight into how 20-somethings organize and operate, so we thought our story might be applicable to your good work. We welcome your feedback, especially from those of you who may work at universities or sit on their boards.
Annie E. Clark is a co-founder of End Rape on Campus (EROC), and a lead complainant in the Title IX and Clery complaints against the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a BA in Political Science. She has a certificate in business and is a former administrator at the University of Oregon. She is a contributing writer to the Huffington Post, MSNBC, and The Chronicle Vitae. After directly working with New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, she helped write the Bi-Partisan Campus Safety and Accountability Act. In 2013, she was listed alongside President Barack Obama as one of the most influential forces in higher education, and she is featured in the campus sexual assault documentary, “The Hunting Ground.”
Andrea Pino is a co-founder of EROC and the Director of Policy & Support. A first-generation college student, she attended The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she majored in Political Science and English, and pursued research around the policy framing of Title IX, and campus violence. Together with Annie, she filed a Federal Complaint with the Department of Education against UNC before helping found EROC, and her activism has been featured on front page of the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Vogue, Glamour Magazine, CNN and Good Morning America, as well as many other national and international media outlets. She has appeared as a guest on The Melissa Harris-Perry Show and is a contributor to the Huffington Post. In 2013, she was listed alongside President Barack Obama as one of the most influential forces in higher education, and her work and personal journey is prominently featured in the documentary “The Hunting Ground,” which premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.
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