Lisa F. Jackson’s timely documentary It Happened Here follows five young women as they share their testimonies of surviving sexual assault. Through intimate interviews, the film documents harrowing first-hand accounts of rape on America’s college campuses. (BKP: 5/5)
Angie Epifano. Kylie Angell. Sarah O’Brien. Carolyn Luby. Erica Daniels.
Any one of those names could camouflage themselves on a list of college graduates, typical American girls who earned a Bachelor’s Degree in fill-in-the-blank. But thankfully, those five names stand out for a reason. Those successful, independent young women have been the victims of rape on their own college campuses. When they sought help, they were treated with apathetic attitudes and disbelief. But instead of hiding in the shadows or being shamed into silence, each woman has spoken out against the issue and has diligently fought for justice – with or without help from their universities.
Director Lisa F. Jackson and producer Marjorie Schwartz Nielsen center on three collegiate institutions and their responses to sexual assault: Amherst College (Angie Epifano), Vanderbilt University (Sarah O’Brien) and University of Connecticut (Kylie Angell, Carolyn Luby, Erica Daniels). Each of the five women describes their own story of surviving rape from an unsuspecting, trusted friend and the trauma they endured in the aftermath. Instead of feeling comforted and safe when they reached out to their school for help, their stories were questioned with skepticism and ridicule. When they tried to report the crime, they were met with retaliation from the authorities and were ignored as the attackers remained on campus.
The film documents the five women, angered and frustrated by the less-than-helpful reactions from their universities, as they climb their way up the ladder of justice. In their own ways, they fight against stereotypes and stigmas that come along with sexual assault. By organizing walks and campaigns to combat rape on college campuses and publicly sharing their stories, they act as representatives for people who feel like they don’t have a voice. Jackson follows the girls as they file a lawsuit against the University of Connecticut, focusing on the mishandling of rape cases and the prevention that can be taken for possible future occurrences. But instead of focusing solely on the details of the lawsuit, Jackson delves deeper and brings out the emotions of each woman interviewed. The subject is tackled with dignity and grace while packing a much-needed punch at universities that continuously mishandle rape cases.
Although all five stories are unique to each individual woman, they are interwoven with one central theme: do not be afraid to speak up. Jackson’s message shines through thanks to the raw honesty and authenticity of these five brave activists, unashamed of showing their faces and telling their stories to help others. They know there is a necessary need for change on college campuses and they are not waiting around for other people to do it.
Review © Brigid K. Presecky (4/13/15)
Photo: Angie Epifano shares her inspiring story.
Q#1: Does It Happened Here pass the Bechdel Test?
Q#2: Meet the activists: Who is Kylie Angell?
The Hot Pink Pen was fortunate enough to get an exclusive, in-depth interview with award-winning, registered nurse Kylie Angell. Her strength and determination through her hardships at UConn have made her into the activist she is today. Read our interview with Angell HERE!