“College age women are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted than robbed” says the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network on statistics of campus sexual violence. For this reason, on the evening of Oct. 13, the Women’s and Gender Studies department at Concordia hosted a documentary screening and talkback featuring the film “It Was Rape,” directed by Fargo native Jennifer Baumgardner.
Both Concordia faculty and students attended the event, nearly filling Olin 124. The documentary focused on eight women who have survived rape and sexual assault, and are now telling their story. After the film ended, students and faculty members were able to ask Baumgardner any questions they had. Professor Erika Strandjord, attendee of the screening as well as Women’s and Gender Studies faculty member, mentioned that she was grateful that Concordia had the opportunity to have both the documentary and film maker on campus due to Baumgardner’s well known status.
Baumgardner, originally from Fargo, N.D., is a feminist writer, filmmaker, lecturer and producer who also is the executive director and publisher of “The Feminist Press” at The City University of New York. “It Was Rape,” which debuted in 2013, is her second film. Baumgardner’s online biography states that her goal is to “create language and conversation about the common, shared experiences that are sometimes terrible and often taboo to talk about even in the most intimate settings.”
Concordia junior Amanda Randall says that she walked into the event with an open mind, however she “was not completely certain of how [the documentary] would be portrayed.”
The film shows footage of eight women from different backgrounds and a range of ages describing their personal experience regarding rape. Throughout the documentary, each woman shared their story, from child molestation, to rape at a college party, to rape as a form of hate crime against members of the LGBTQ society.
“I thought this was going to be a film about speaking out, but by the end I realized it was a film of learning how to listen,” Baumgardner said at the end of the film.
Co-director of the Women’s and Gender Studies department on campus, Karla Knutson, notes that this documentary and subject is relevant to Concordia’s student body because it is an important way of developing empathy.
“Before watching this documentary, I knew [rape] happened sometimes,” says senior Samantha Peka. “But this made it all the more real, instead of just a statistic,”
At least three of the eight women featured in the film have connections to the Minnesota-North Dakota area. The film hits close to home for Cobbers, as the three include an NDSU professor, Baumgardner’s own sister and a member of Minnesota’s White Earth Reservation. Not only does the video include three women that have connections to the area, it is also filled with scenes of long flat highways that are clearly Minnesota roads.
“I think all of that is a visual reminder that this is happening all around us,” Knutson says.
Concordia’s Campus Crime Report was recently released containing 2015 reports. Only one rape was reported in 2015, and only four since 2013. However, it is not uncommon for college-aged people to not report rapes and instances of sexual violence. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, “Only 20 percent of female student victims age 18-24 report to law enforcement.”
Not only is this film relevant to Concordia’s student body, it is relevant to everyone, including those who have never experienced sexual abuse.
“When you actually hear these women talk about what happened and what it was like afterward and what they’ve done since, it’s a lot harder to cavalierly assume you know what it would be like,” Strandjord said.