Speaking about sexual assault is difficult. But speaking up about being sexually assaulted takes an incredible amount of courage. Many have tried, but the response hasn’t always been good. People are quick to blame the victim, and the attackers often get off with a slap on the wrist. Producer Marjorie Schwartz Nielsen decided to tackle the issue of sexual assault on college campuses head-on by producing the film “It Happened Here“. The film tells the true story of five women, each of whom was sexually assaulted on a college campus.
“It Happened Here” is available on Netflix and has been screened on various college campuses. It spreads awareness about the shockingly high number of sexual assault cases on college campuses and tries to break down the belief that sexual assault is the fault of the victim.
Marjorie helped make the film into a powerful production that inspires change. She decided to work on this project when a friend’s child was assaulted. With her own children away in college, Marjorie thought she had known everything there was to know about college life. But news of the sexual assault caused her to dig deeper into the issue. She discovered the alarmingly high number of sexual assaults on college campuses and the college rape culture. Marjorie wanted the film to address the issue and take some of the spotlight off the legal system, focusing more on the people.
Surprisingly, Marjorie says that the hardest part of shooting the film (besides finding funding) wasn’t finding victims to speak up; it was finding university administrators to talk about it. Through the stories of the women in the film, we learn that college administrators were overwhelmingly apathetic to the victims. So, in hindsight, it’s not surprising that they were reluctant to appear on film. You’ll have to watch the film for yourself to find out which administrator’s did come forward to address this far too common problem.
Although the victims were forthcoming, the filming process wasn’t an easy one. Speaking about such a traumatic experience for the world to see is exhausting. Throughout the process, Marjorie felt very protective over the women and did everything she could to make them comfortable. After filming, the film was screened to make sure everyone involved was happy with the way their stories were told. It was edited to make them feel at ease- something not often done in documentaries.
The response to the film has been great. Emails from sexual assault survivors of all ages, in all countries have found their way into Marjorie’s inbox. The film has gotten a broad reach and she feels that she opened some eyes to what’s going on.
Making the movie opened Marjorie Shwartz Nielsen’s eyes even more. Sexual assault can happen to men and women alike, anywhere. All of the information Marjorie came across while filming was shocking and disturbing. The activists she met while making the film both inspired and humbled her, helping Marjorie to become a better activist herself. Marjorie plans to continue to work on social justice projects, and we have no doubt that she will continue to make a difference.
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