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Student film on rape at Brown debuts at Cable Car

A Brown student sits on a white couch, hands clenched tightly together, eyes downcast as she describes the man who got into her car and forced her to give him money and perform a variety of sexual acts on him. The hand held camera zooms in slightly as she bites her lip and looks right into the camera and says he held her at knife point throughout the whole ordeal.

This is just one of the stories told in the film "Hush" - a student documentary exploring the rape culture on Brown's campus. Starting with three students' and one affiliated non-student's stories of sexual assault, the documentary, running a little less than half an hour, explores more than just sexual violence itself, also delving into the humiliating and often futile process of reporting rape, Brown's unsatisfactory policy and the culture of silence that follows rape throughout our entire society.

The film, created by Marta daSilva '09 and Kristin Jordan '09 and edited by Finn Yarbrough '09 as a part of INTL 1800E: "The Good Fight: Documentary Work and Social Change," took almost all of last semester to create and made its debut Monday at the Cable Car Cinema .

Jordan said that the goal of the film for her is to bring out what she calls the "rape culture crisis" into the open.

"(Rape) is talked about as a privacy issue, which I respect, but it makes it hard for people to come forward because it is not publicly acknowledged," Jordan said, adding that the film serves as a starting point for a larger dialogue on and awareness of sexual violence on Brown's campus.

The film explores the countless reasons rape has remained a silent issue. According to the documentary, almost 60 percent of rapes in the United States go unreported and only one in 20 rapists spend any time in jail.

"By getting people to fight the stigma and come out in public to talk about their trauma, I thought people would be more apt to talk about such a prevalent and widespread dilemma," daSilva wrote in an e-mail.

Interspersed with the four women's stories, "Hush" includes Brown students and faculty attempting to define rape, rape statistics written on people's bodies and daSilva and Jordan doing spoken word performances inspired by their own experiences with sexual violence over a black screen.

As the stories of sexual assault unfold, the four women explain the process of reporting their rape.

"I realized I would need to fight the Brown system to be heard," one of the women said of her efforts to report her rape through the University, instead of going to Providence Police. The women described how deans lost their testimonies, discouraged them from pursuing accusations and doubted their stories. They had to tell their painful stories over and over. One woman explained how it took months of work and her attacker only received a semester's probation. Another said her attacker went unpunished and was proven "guilty only of being drunk."

For Jordan, herself a victim of sexual violence, this was one of the main reasons for making the film.

"I saw first-hand that things are not handled well at Brown," she said. Her own experience has inspired her to become involved with the Sexual Assault Task Force and to create a support group on campus for victims of sexual violence.

But Jordan explained she does not see the film as antagonistic towards the administration but, instead, as a way to "help them see where the real problems are."

Though all of the sexual assault victims expressed dissatisfaction with the way Brown handled their cases, "Hush" does not feature a response from any Brown officials. Jordan explains that this exclusion was a conscious choice because the "administration has a voice already and this film is a vehicle for people who do not."

Another omission in "Hush" is any male perspective on sexual violence. While Jordan and daSilva interviewed men about sexual violence, they could not find any victims and so chose not to include a male voice. Jordan explained that finding men who had been sexually assaulted was very difficult.

"One of my initial goals was to break up the binary dialogue around rape victims because that gender binary is completely false, and it only adds to the problem," she said. "Even if I'd love to show that side, I can't create it out of thin air."

While this is an understandable dilemma, a film about giving voice to the voiceless that doesn't mention men as victims of rape only adds to this problem. Jordan added that another piece missing from the documentary are issues of homosexual rape.

"Hush" leaves many questions unanswered and could have delved deeper into the cultural issues of rape on Brown's campus. There was no mention of what Brown's actual policy is on sexual violence. The film included national statistics on sexual assault, but had no Brown-specific statistics. As a film focused on the rape culture at Brown, more University-specific numbers could have been more powerful.

Despite these omissions, however, the women featured in the film, the statistics and the spoken word are incredibly powerful and thought-provoking. At times discomforting, heartbreaking and shocking, "Hush" gives an honest and straightforward look at the painful truth of sexual violence on Brown's campus.

For Jordan and daSilva, the film is not about providing solutions or attacking administrators, but about raising awareness.

"I don't pretend to have any kind of answers," Jordan said. "I have no demands other than that it needs to be acknowledged."

The film will be screened again on Sunday at 4 p.m. in Salomon 001, accompanied by readings from a book compiled by Jordan and daSilva, in an event sponsored by the Sexual Assault Task Force.


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