Civil rights activist urges athletes to fight against sexual assault

Kayla Meyertons

Beyonce played lightly on the speakers and yellow stickers labeled “Consent is NOT the absence of NO” dotted the round tables Wednesday as people filed into the SAC ballroom for the National Young Women’s Day of Action Luncheon.

Sponsored by campus groups including the Gender and Sexuality Center, Voices Against Violence and BeVocal, the luncheon hosted Andrea Pino, a civil rights activist and co-founder of End Rape on Campus, a support group for survivors of sexual assault. Pino touched on an array of social issues related to sexual assault, including Title IX, media framing and mental health.  

Pino began her work with sexual assault in 2012 after she had been sexually assaulted at the University of North Carolina. Pino said she and UNC alumna Annie Clark filed a federal complaint against the university in March 2012 and since gained nationwide coverage to raise awareness around campus sexual assault. Their efforts were the subject of the 2015 film “The Hunting Ground.”

“Everything changed my sophomore year,” Pino said. “I knew what sexual assault looked like, but it was so different to apply a title of victim or survivor to myself.”

Pino said universities like UT need to have a more active discussion about sexual assault with student athletes. 

“I would like to see athletes be part of the conversation, not just when it’s in response to a scandal,” Pino said. “I think that’s usually when athletes are involved, because they have to for good PR, but it’s important to recognize that athletes are assaulted too, both men and women.”

Government freshman Michelle Egbuna said Pino helped her realize the different ways the media can frame sexual assault. 

“I love how she differentiated between community awareness and community accountability,” Egbuna said. “Not even just for sexual assault, but when you think about social issues, what is that awareness doing for you if you’re not acting on it and not doing anything about it? I really loved how she brought that point up. I had never heard that before.”

UT alumna Sarah McLaughlin, who works with adolescents in Health and Human Services, said she came to the luncheon to learn more about the dynamic of rape culture and empowerment. 

“You can never learn too much about relationships and empowerment,” McLaughlin said. “The more you know, the more you can help these kiddos understand it better.”