by Marsha Rakestraw

Although the “Stanford rape case” has garnered the most attention lately, the sexual assault of women and girls is a regular occurrence.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, in the US, 1 in 5 women will be raped at some time in their lives.

The treatment of many girls and women who come forward to report sexual assault, the typical outcomes of any legal action against rapists, and discussions about toxic masculinity and rape culture reveal that our society has some dark and deep-seated values and beliefs about the value and roles of women and men.

These four must-see films about sexual assault can help spark conversations about our current social norms and how we can begin to nurture a culture of compassion, equity, and justice.

1.  The Hunting Ground
(2015) (103 min)
This film features the stories of students who claim that they were sexually assaulted at their college campuses and that the administration either ignored them or forced them to maneuver a maze of bureaucracy to pursue justice. It also focuses on two sexual assault survivors, who became anti-rape activists and travel the country helping other young women on college campus file Title IX complaints to force universities to take action.

2.  India’s Daughter
(2015) (63 min)
In December 2012, a brutal gang-rape and murder in Delhi led to a public outcry and call for gender equality and a dismantling of the patriarchal system that cultivates violence against and oppression off women and girls. The film includes interviews with one of the convicted rapists and the two defense lawyers, exemplifying how “normal” men believe and behave toward women in India.

3.  The Invisible War
(2012) (99 min)
This film examines the epidemic of sexual assault in the military. The filmmakers uncover a system that blames victims, lacks support and proper process, and ignores a culture that thrives on hyper-charged violence, masculinity, and “sucking it up.”

4.  Tapestries of Hope
(2009) (76 min)
This film highlights the work of Betty Makoni, founder of the Girl Child Network in Zimbabwe. Betty’s organization works to help and protect girls who have been raped and sexually abused and to change practices and attitudes among those who think that raping a virgin will cure them of HIV/AIDS.

Discussions about issues like body agency, consent, and need to start early and happen often, and all of us need to find ways to help shift cultural norms and policies.

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