By Nickie Hayes
The Title IX office at SUNY Plattsburgh held events all October., recognizing Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To end the month, Title IX showed the documentary “Audrie & Daisy,” as an event for students to learn more about what encompasses violence.
Zyaijah Nadler, the violence prevention education and outreach coordinator for Title IX, organized the documentary showing. They watched the film on Netflix through Zoom.
“Audrie & Daisy” was chosen because of the circumstances the girls in the film were in at the time. At that point they were young girls in high school who were sexually assaulted. They were then harshly bullied through social media, with pictures taken of them during the assault. The documentary also shows other young women who had their own stories to tell about sexual assault and bullying. Kelsey Harland is an intern for Title IX and a senior in the social work program. She said that even though she works in the department, she wanted to go to the event because she is a violence prevention peer educator, and the topic of discussion at the event is important to her.
Elizabeth Mautz, a junior double majoring in psychology and adolescence education said she attended the showing because of her sorority, Theta Alpha Lambda, whose philanthropy is Clinton County’s Stop Domestic Violence, a program that assists victims of domestic violence.
Nadler said this particular movie was shown because of how relevant it is to today. Also, because of domestic violence awareness month, it is important to have conversations about all forms of violence. This includes sexual violence and the forms of bullying the girls in the documentary experienced.
“A lot of our students, and people in general use and rely on social media for communication and sometimes use it in a negative way. So, we wanted to make sure we were having a conversation about social media’s impact,” Nadler said.
Recognizing cyberbullying and sexual assault was another focus for showing the documentary, Harland said. She said sexual assault is a subcategory of domestic violence, and these topics aren’t discussed by younger generations.
Audrie commits suicide when the charges are dropped against her assailant. Daisy also committed suicide last August.
“We wanted to make sure that we talked about the impacts and effects, long term effects, that any form of violence can have on a person,” Nadler said.
Mautz said the documentary helped her understand why SUNY Plattsburgh has an office like Title IX. She said the documentary helped her put what Title IX stands for into a real world perspective and be able to help apply it in her life.
Janhvi Bhingardive, a freshman, majoring in psychology said she was attracted to the event because it was a movie screening, and she wanted to be a part of the discussion on the topic.
She said these conversations can be very controversial, and many people experience victim blaming and wanted to learn more about it.
Mautz said she enjoyed the event and the documentary, even though it was difficult to watch at certain points. She said her experience was good, and although it evoked some negative emotions, it taught her valuable lessons.
Two students, plus Harland, attended the screening. Nadler said the turnout was expected.
“The conversation was still really great, and that’s why it is important to still maintain these events even if it isn’t a large turnout,” Nadler said.
Bhingardive said it was a great experience and liked how she had the ability to speak her mind after the documentary was over and felt it was a safe space. She also said in the discussion they talked about how badly these types of experiences can affect the victims, and their families as well.
However, she said she would have liked to have more student participants to hear their differing opinions and felt the discussion was limited because of it.
Nadler said the conversation after the showing consisted of what they could do differently in a situation like that, aspects of the movie and points that could be upsetting and troubling to get through.
Harland said the conversation was also a check in to see how the participants were feeling. Nadler asked questions like if the internet made the situation worse for the girls in the documentary. Harland said it did because it got more people involved than was necessary.
Mautz said in the conversation following the documentary, she had the opportunity to say how she was feeling and talk about the process for charging someone for violence is not as easy as it seems.
“It was really good just to be validated in the emotions I had, and to feel that I was not alone,” Mautz said.
Nadler explained that Netflix allows for movies and documentaries to be shown for educational purposes, and there are certain movies that have flexibilities for copyrights.
Mautz said even though the event was through Zoom, the important messages still came across.
Bhingardive said it was good to have this event through Zoom because of the serious topic of discussion. She said people could have the video of their faces on or off and had the choice to speak or not.
Nadler said she recommends students who did not come to the event to watch the documentary. She said being able to understand the challenges someone is put through if they experience violence is very important.
“I think it’s very relatable,” Nadler said. “It’s real, it’s real lives, real stories being told, and if an individual themselves has not experienced some form of violence in their life, statistically they know someone who has. So, knowing the different struggles someone has went through can help people in order to build empathy.”
Bhingardive said she thought the documentary was well done and also feels students that did not participate should watch it.
“I would recommend people to watch it not because I want people to see how these girls suffered, but it is more that I want people to see that harm is not just caused by some random stranger. It may be a friend of yours, an acquaintance who you see regularly at school, or even someone you see at family gatherings,” Bhingardive said.
Nadler said that a similar event to this would be held in April because it is sexual assault awareness month, as well as many other events and initiatives. Their biggest event months are October and April.
“This was the first event I attended, but I would like to attend more events from Title IX,” Bhingardive said.
“It is a problem more people face than we’d like to admit,” Mautz said. “I feel they are trying to bring these dark topics out of the shadows to kind of make them not more acceptable, but able to be talked about more freely.”
“These kinds of events, initiatives and film screenings help us to navigate conversations, help us to continue conversations, and we want to make sure people know violence prevention is ongoing. It is not something you learn once, and you’re good to go,” Nadler said.