Documentary filmmaker discusses sexual assault

The Aurora Center is showing Angela Shelton’s film as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Marni Ginther

In her award-winning documentary, filmmaker and actress Angela Shelton looked up every woman in America who shared her name.

She found that 28 of 40 Angela Sheltons who responded had been raped, beaten or molested – just like she had been as a child.

As part of Sexual Assault Awareness month, the Aurora Center for Advocacy and Education is showing “Searching for Angela Shelton” at 1:30 p.m. today in Nicholson Hall.

“It’s a really powerful documentary and captures the pain and emotion that sexual violence creates,” said Liz Borer, Aurora Center coordinator.

Advocates from the center will be available after the film for confidential and group discussions.

The Daily spoke with Shelton about her film and the sexual violence issues she’s working against.

Did you decide to find every Angela Shelton first and then realize how many of them had stories of sexual violence, or was it the other way around?

I sought out the women as a way to survey women in America, and see how we’re doing. And then I discovered the common theme.

You almost lost all your funding several times while making the film. What kept you going?

Oh, faith. One hundred percent. Not in a religious sense, more of a universal connection sense. I saw even if I talked about the movie and brought up what I was doing Ö whether I’m at a hotel or a post-production facility, every single time, I’m speaking to another survivor. And that survivor, either it was themselves who’d been abused or it was someone very dear to them. And I thought this is just too weird to just simply be weird. I think this is like, everything happens for a reason. I think that this film has a bigger purpose than to just be a movie.

On college campuses you hear a lot about date rape, consent and safe sex. What is your main message to students when you speak on campus?

Trust your intuition. Listen when you do get that gut feeling like, “Uh, I should probably leave this party.” And the thing is, we’ve been trained so many times to just be like, “Oh shut up, you’re being overdramatic.” We’ve sort of been trained to not listen to the intuition.

Also I just went to a greek conference for all the fraternities and sororities, and I heard a speaker say something really amazing. The actual reason that fraternities were created originally was to promote unity and friendship and community and philanthropy. So how about every frat house being actually the safest place for a girl to be? But you know we all know that’s not always the case.

When you speak at colleges, does anyone ever come up to you with their own story of sexual violence?

Oh, every time. There’s never been a time that I’ve spoken that I haven’t had somebody come up to me.

Is it usually only women, or are there men too?

It’s actually the men that wait until everybody’s gone. There’s a man waiting for me, and then it’s like that guy, lurking in the corner Ö when really he isn’t a creep at all, it’s someone that feels so out of place and embarrassed that they’ve waited until literally the auditorium is empty Ö and then they come up to me and tell me their story. And that’s always a man. There’s always at least one man, every time. It’s like the stigma almost is worse for men in a weird, horrible way.

Your Web site uses the phrase “epidemic of abuse” to describe what you found in your research. Is sexual violence really an epidemic?

Yeah, because everybody knows somebody. I mean, there have been a few people that are like, “I don’t know anybody,” but really yeah, actually, you do. Because the lady that you pick up your dry cleaning from, the lady you buy your coffee from every morning, the guy who drove you in the taxi Ö you do come in contact with (survivors), you just didn’t even know it.

What is the Angela Shelton Foundation and what does it do to help survivors of sexual and domestic violence?

The foundation – really what it’s turned into is a fund, because I found so many different organizations that are amazing, that are already doing that – that are already working towards helping survivors heal. And I don’t want to reinvent the wheel; I want to help people that are already out doing it. So what my foundation is becoming is a fund where people can give me money and then I can distribute that money to the organizations that are doing the right thing – because I see the organizations myself, I visit all the centers and I see the ones that are full of crap and the ones that are really, really doing the good work.