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Carroll University's free film festival addresses gender violence

Sexual assault on campus is pervasive. A statistical study conducted by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network reported that women age 18-24 are at an elevated risk of sexual assault. The report also found that college-age male students are 78% more likely than non-students of the same age victims of sexual assault. Carroll University’s Office of Violence Prevention works to combat the epidemic with three pillars: awareness, education and prevention.

“You might imagine when students come in the first year they need to go through orientation,” said Kanoe Montano, project coordinator of the Office of Violence Prevention. “Part of that orientation conversion is how to be an active bystander, how to be empathetic, how to learn about a culture of violence that we are already living in and how to navigate it.”

Montano said these types of programs help set up their students for success when it comes to healthy boundaries. Another element of the work is intersectional feminism. Montano believes that anti-violence work needs to be inclusive to all experiences in order to fully counter gender-based violence.

"When you layer on the experience of being Black or Brown in America and you experience higher rates of violence just because of systemic racism and then you layer on the fact you are also a woman, non-binairy person or trans person who experience higher rates of violence than men do," said Montano. "When you layer both of those you realize that there is an exaggerated experience of violence for people who are of color and who are not men. That's not to say men don't experience violence, they just experience it at a much lower rate."

The Office of Violence Prevention hopes to facilitate healthy conversations with the upcoming Anti-Violence Film Festival, featuring six films that address gender-based violence and a post-screening discussion. Some of the films that will be shown are “Promising Young Woman,” “#MeToo, Now What?: Masculinity in Crisis” and “Chavela.” All screenings are free and open to the public.

“The way that I like to create the analogy of our office is that, when we enter the room, it’s sort of like when you have broccoli on your plate,” said Montano. “You’re going to kind of avoid it, but you know it’s healthy and necessary for you. This was a way to make it more palatable and accessible to people so that it didn’t feel, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go and talk about gender-based violence.’ Instead, it’s like, ‘Okay, how about you just watch a movie with us? That way you don’t have to be an expert.’”

Montano said that she hopes that empathy is at the forefront of every interaction and topic around gender-based violence.

“The individualistic mindset is what sets up for failure in combating violence because violence is a cultural problem,” said Montano. “Always believe survivors unless you are a police officer or lawyer; it’s not your job to decide if they are telling the truth. Just think, ‘Am I starting with criticism, or am I starting with empathy?’’

Montano said it best: Watching movies allows anyone to empathize with fictional characters and help generate more compassion and understanding in the real world. The Anti-Violence Film Festival is Friday, Feb. 18, and Saturday, Feb. 19. Click this link for the full schedule of the film screenings.

Audio Storyteller / 88Nine On-Air Talent | Radio Milwaukee