Many people know activists Annie E. Clark and Andrea L. Pino from their appearance in the documentary The Hunting Ground, a gripping, award-winning exposé about sexual assault cover-ups on college and university campuses in the U.S. But behind the scenes, Clark and Pino not only support survivors through their non-profit End Rape On Campus, they’re also continuing the discussion through their new book We Believe You: Survivors of Campus Sexual Assault Speak Out.
The book, which features stories from over 30 people, shows that sexual assault survivors have diverse identities and how important it is for survivors to know they’re not alone and their stories are believed. Clark and Pino are determined to put a spotlight on fellow survivors.
We chatted with them about how We Believe You brings a fresh perspective to the issue.
Why did you write this book?
AEC: We wanted survivors to be able to tell their stories without a media filter and to have them seen as whole people—to not have this definitive moment in time be the only thing the world knows about survivors.
Why did you focus on topics beyond the assault?
ALP: There is so much more to survivors and who they are beyond that one experience. They’re complex, they’ve made mistakes and they’ve done great things. They were great individuals before and they’re great now.
The book challenges stereotypes, particularly that survivors are always straight women. How harmful is this limited idea?
AEC: This narrow view is damaging not just to survivors, but to everyone. It plays into this very narrow stereotype that this is what a survivor looks like. That’s really harmful to society, but also to people who are assaulted: to men, to LGBT individuals, to anyone who doesn’t fit this paradigm that media has created.
How has your journey with the book and The Hunting Ground changed your perception of survivors?
ALP: We’ve realized there are so many different types of experiences. It’s both saddening and also empowering because the fact that this is happening is just unacceptable. But every time we travel, we meet more incredible individuals that really do keep us going, and that are doing such amazing things. When we’re here in the office, days become very long and we are often in a place where we’re like ‘Why do we still do this? It’s not getting any better.’ But every time we meet these people, we get re-energized. That’s why we do what we do.