University filmmakers lead national project against sexual assaults on college campuses

University filmmakers lead national project against sexual assaults on college campuses

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It’s become almost epidemic on college campuses – one in five women are sexually assaulted in America during their college career.

To help reverse this alarming trend, students and faculty within Rowan University’s College of Communication & Creative Arts are leading students at five colleges and universities across the United States in creating original films aimed at both addressing the violence and helping to end it.

Through the series of 10 films, which range from 10-23 minutes in length, students encourage their peers to not only be aware that sexual assault can happen to anyone at any time but, also, to take a pact to help prevent it.

“This project is part of a war on sexual assault and rape,” said Ned Eckhardt, a Rowan professor in the Department of Radio, Television & Film (RTF) who helped acquire financing and, along with colleague Diana Nicolae, led instruction for the project.

Eckhardt and department chair Keith Brand, in cooperation with the Clery Center for Security on Campus in Wayne, Pa., secured a $200,000 grant from the Wyncote Foundation in Philadelphia to pay for the project.
Collectively known as PACT5, the film series includes documentaries and narrative film work from Rowan, Framingham State University in Massachusetts, California State University: Northridge, Northern Illinois University and Western State Colorado University. Find information on the initiative at www.pact5.org.

Rowan will premier three of the 10 PACT5 films on Tuesday, April 8, at 10:30 a.m. in the Training Room of the Wellness Center at Winans Hall. During the premier, which also will serve as a press briefing on PACT5, the Rowan professors and filmmakers will discuss the project, as will Rowan alumna Katya Palsi.

Palsi is featured in “Katalyst,” a documentary produced by University students (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vt3snqLSUDE). The story follows Palsi, a survivor of sexual assault, on a journey of healing and awareness.
“PACT5 got our students involved in a meaningful project and put pressure on them to create films that can make a difference,” Eckhardt said.

Nicolae, an associate professor in Rowan’s RTF department, believes the films, to be used in a variety of ways at colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada – from freshmen orientation to public safety – will have an impact because they were created by and for students. They are supported through a robust social media campaign that furthers the key message of the films – that students should make a pact to help prevent sexual assaults from happening.

“Students find few things more impactful than student-produced media,” Nicolae said. “These guys know how their peers think and respond to media, and can thus be very successful in crafting a message that hits home with that audience.”

Making the PACT
Not only did Rowan University secure funding for the project and enlist other university filmmaking partners, its president, Dr. Ali Houshmand, was the first of the five university presidents to make the pact and use his office and resources to support reducing the incidence of sexual assault on and near campus.

Of the 10 films created for the project, Rowan students wrote, produced, directed and starred in three.

Senior Lauren Stroz, a producer for the film Slutwalk: A Day in Her Heels, said she and other students travelled to Connecticut and Toronto for interviews and footage. The story follows the global phenomenon known as “Slutwalk,” which began after a police chief accused college women of dressing provocatively and prompting their own victimization.

“What we wanted was to show empowerment,” Stroz said. “It’s a hurtful thing to happen to you but in the end many of these women have been empowered by Slutwalk.”

Take Back The Night
Rowan’s announcement of the PACT5 film series takes place hours before the annual Take Back The Night program and campus march.

A program participated in across the U.S., Take Back The Night events are held to raise awareness about sexual assault and to give survivors a voice.

Prior to the march around campus, a literal “taking back” of the night, students will participate in the Clothesline Project, an annual event in which students decorate t-shirts to voice their opposition to sexual violence and display them on a clothesline.