Producer Amy Ziering speaks about sexual assault at Berkeley Forum event

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Michael Wan/Staff

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Berkeley students filled Anna Head Alumnae Hall on Wednesday to hear two-time Emmy Award-winning and Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Amy Ziering talk about lessons she learned regarding sexual assault from filming “The Hunting Ground,” an expose of rape crimes on college campuses.

Berkeley Forum President Daniel Ahrens said the organization invited Ziering to speak because of her prominence advocating against the issue of sexual assault and its relevance to campus students.

“Regardless of your understanding of sexual assault on campus, Amy Ziering is a very powerful and influential voice on the topic, and her engagement talking about the issue is very notable,” Ahrens said.

“The Hunting Ground,” which was released in February, 2015, is a documentary that follows the stories of multiple students who were allegedly sexually assaulted at their college campuses.

“It took us a while to figure out the title, but when we did it was to underline that it’s a targeted, premeditated crime, it’s not a bad hookup, it’s not miscommunication,” Ziering said.

One in every five women are sexually assaulted in college, yet most men are not rapists, said Ziering. In fact, 2 to 6 percent of men are responsible for these attacks, but in a convenient setting such as a college environment, “they repeat the crime over and over again.”

Victims of sexual assault are targeted based on gender, race, class standing and sexual orientation, according to Ziering. Perpetrators look for people who are not in positions of power and less likely to report rape.

A common myth concerning sexual assault, Ziering said, is the allegation that “alcohol is to blame.”

“If people are so concerned about alcohol being the problem, why aren’t they telling men to drink less?” Ziering said.

Another myth, according to Ziering, is that many reports of sexual assault are false, when in fact 92 to 98 percent of reports are true.

Ziering compared investigation of a sexual assault case to that of a robbery.

“This is synonymous to someone asking ‘Are you sure he meant to take the television set? What were you wearing when he stole the television set?’” Ziering said. “It’s as unlikely for someone to falsely tell you that they’ve been robbed as it is for them to falsely say that they’ve been raped.”

During the audience question and answer session, Ziering elaborated on the difference between the terms “date rape” and “target rape,” the latter of which she said she prefers to use.

“Date rape makes it seems like an understanding,” Ziering said. “It diminishes it. I think it’s sort of patronizing — a date’s a date. Rape’s a felony. The two just don’t go together.”

According to Ziering, victims of sexual assault may suffer from symptoms ranging from depression and anxiety to PTSD and self-harm.

Ziering also explained that rape victims may feel ashamed and shocked, and this feeling only intensifies when victims are accused of falsely reporting sexual assault.

“Women in the military who are sexually assaulted suffer from three times the amount of PTSD that combat survivors suffer from,” Ziering said.

Berkeley Forum Head Moderator Haley Keglovits asked Ziering how she balanced the conflicting forces of her own opinions on the documentary while staying true to unbiased reporting.

“When you do anything like this, you have a responsibility to make sure it’s bulletproof,” Ziering said. “You’re going to get attacked frivolously, you’re going to get attacked fraudulently, you’re going to get attacked maliciously — so you’d better make sure you have your facts right.”

Contact Amber Tang at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ambertang_dc.

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  • “Another myth, according to Ziering, is that many reports of sexual assault are false, when in fact 92 to 98 percent of reports are true.

    “Ziering compared investigation of a sexual assault case to that of a robbery.

    “’This is synonymous to someone asking “Are you sure he meant to take the television set? What were you wearing when he stole the television set?”’ Ziering said. ‘It’s as unlikely for someone to falsely tell you that they’ve been robbed as it is for them to falsely say that they’ve been raped.'”

    Wrong, wrong, wrong.

    Rape is very different from most other crimes, because it’s based on an act which is generally consented to and enjoyed by all. What’s the difference between rape and perfectly good sex? Consent — and knowledge of its absence — that’s what.

    Putting aside the merits of any particular question, this means we do have to ask rape complainants things we don’t ask most robbery complainants. Things which, if mishandled, can be intrusive, upsetting and even re-traumatizing. But things we can’t do without if we want to properly investigate a rape complaint.

    Another thing about rape: It’s most often committed in private. Not to mention the only two people who know about it weren’t always or even usually sober as judges as the time.

    So how in heck can anyone actually measure authoritatively how many accounts of subjective events, committed in private, are true?

    Of course, that “2-8% false accusations” canard:

    * Actually knocks down the number from a study by David Lisak (who thinks our campuses are crawling with serial rapists) et al, which study says that 2-*10*% of rape accusations are false.

    * Conveniently forgets that an accusation doesn’t need to be false in order to be wrongful. Complainants may mistakenly accuse the wrong person, they may reasonably believe they communicated non-consent when they didn’t, and the defendants may reasonably believe the respondents didn’t communicate non-consent when they did. Remember, rape is a crime and like most crimes it requires intent — and rightly so.

    * Defines a false accusation as one which has been *proven* false. So…if an accusation is not proven false, it’s true? So, wrong country — try North Korea or Cuba, please.

    Last but not least, suppose — for the sake of argument — that “only” 2-8% of rape accusations are false. So fucking what? What proportion of the population relies on wheelchairs? Identifies as LGBT? Have we now gotten *back* into the business of swiping minorities aside?

    Trust me, if you really believe in social justice, the last thing you want to undermine is the idea that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

    #CheckYourHistory #SaccoAndVanzetti #ScottsboroNine #BrianBanks

  • ShadrachSmith

    Yes dear.

  • flashsteve

    I posted am inoffensive, constructive comment yesterday, and now it is deleted?