One of this year’s most talked about documentaries is titled The Hunting Ground, directed and written by two time oscar-nominated Kirby Dick (best known for The Invisible War). I was very lucky to get the chance to attend a screening of the film that was followed by a Q & A with Kirby Dick himself.
The Hunting Ground focuses on what could be the biggest issue the United States is facing right now: rape on college campuses and the failure of administration and law enforcement to do anything about it. The statistics are very alarming. About 20% of females will be sexually assaulted during their time in college. To put that in perspective, 120 of the 600 females that are entering my college next year can expect to be sexually assaulted, possibly before class even starts. This is a major problem on all campuses, affecting mostly females, but also males, all around the country.
Something the film points out is something I believe everyone should be aware of. Only 2%-8% of sexual assault reports are false. This number is very low, meaning approximately 95% of the reports are true. People seem to be unaware of these statistics, because victims are constantly being blamed for lying about being assaulted to get attention.
Speaking of victims being blamed, the film focuses on this unfortunate aspect as well. Victims are constantly blamed for leading guys on, wearing revealing clothing, or being too drunk to really remember what happened. Excuse me, but when did any of these factors make it okay for a human being to violently take advantage of another human being? This brings up the words of advice everyone is talking about: how about instead of teaching women to not get raped teach men to not rape.
There is a misconception that rape usually happens between two drunk people who don’t really know what they’re doing and the girl wakes up the next day and blames the guy for rape even though they were both drunk and not really able to give consent etc… However, sexual assaults are done over and over again by the same 8% of the population. That means those 8% know exactly what they are doing. They seek out their victims, assault them, and most of the time get away with it. Afterwards, the cycle starts over again.
The survivors in the movie said that the actual assault was not the worst part of their experience. This fact is just crazy, because obviously that should be the worst thing to happen to them in their lifetime. Unfortunately, it’s the way that college’s and law enforcement handle the cases. Every single one of the victims interviewed said that when they reported their rape to the school, they were asked/told something along the lines of, “Are you sure you want to do this?”, “What were you wearing?”, “Were you drinking?”, “If you go back in time what would you change?”, “Rape is like a football game”. Every single administrator was more worried about the reputation of the school than the lives of the victims that could be ruined forever.
The filmed displayed, from a wide variety of colleges, the amount of sexual assaults that had been reported on campus throughout the years and how many were actually investigated and resulted in the expulsion of the perpetrator. Within each school, over the span of various years, somewhere between 100-200 assaults were reported, and between 0-5 reports went on to the next level of investigation. Almost no one is charged for the crime, or what should happen, expelled for the crime. The same goes for police reports. The amount of reports filed is very high compared to the amount of rapists that are actually convicted and sent to jail.
The number of the reports filed by students is very low, but understandably so. Who would want to report their sexual assault if they were not going to be trusted, victim-blamed, and not helped whatsoever by administrators at a school they thought cared about them? Victims are left to go to class with the fear of bumping into their rapist along the way.
There is also a struggle to get support from others. Students are fairly good at helping one another, but there are faculty members and administrators who want to do the right thing, but feel that they can’t. The film showed that many faculty members and administrators have been fired for standing up for sexual assault victims on college campuses. Many have a fear of losing their jobs.
A professor (male) in the audience spoke up at the Q & A and said very strongly that this is an issue he worries about a lot. He said he constantly thinks about how there could be a rapist in his class with the victim sitting in the row right in front of him. He explained how he wants and is ready to take a stand, but that he fears that he could lose his job, especially because he doesn’t have tenure. At that moment another professor, with tenure, stood up and said he would back him up 100%.
So, some advise for faculty members and administration: form an alliance. Director Dick was very passionate about this happening. There is no doubt that many faculty members on all campuses feel strongly about this subject. They are simply too scared to speak up about it. If there is a large group put together, it is less likely that jobs will be lost.
Same things go for students, both male and female. Don’t be quiet. Students’ voices are very powerful. If administration doesn’t listen, bring in the press. Make the issues known. Tell them that you will ruin the reputation they are so worried about if they don’t take action. Help your school create programs to help and support survivors. Get a Title IX coordinator.
Dick also made a good point about college’s being so afraid to be the first college to state that they have a sexual assault problem. They think that coming out will make them look bad. However, wouldn’t it make them look good? Wouldn’t it be commendable to be the first university to take a stand against an issue that literally everyone knows is a huge problem? People aren’t going to stop coming to your school because of the statistics, because it happens EVERYWHERE. If one college does it, I can guarantee everyone will follow. Every campus is just waiting for another one to make the first move.
In the end, my advice is to be the change you want to see. Do not be afraid to use your voice. This is an issue that is not OK, and the fact that it has gone on for so long going basically unnoticed is unacceptable. Sexual assault is not a joke, and victims are left with everlasting scars. Many lives are changed forever, and many lives are taken. Dear survivors, you are not alone. Colleges and universities need to stop being so concerned with money and reputation and focus on the well-being of the students. I mean, what kind of society do we live in?
The film is representative of the conversation that everyone must have. Please, check out the film if you get the chance.
To start taking a stand go to http://www.thehuntinggroundfilm.com/#signup
Also a HUGE thank you to the two unbelievably strong women from UNC Chapel Hill (of whom most of the film was based on) for putting their life’s work into ending rape culture on college campuses and not giving up until the problem is solved. They are changing history. You guys are my heroes!
Read their New York Times article here
Check out their website End Rape on Campus for more information and support
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800.656.HOPE
If you need a nonjudgemental, sympathetic friend to talk to PLEASE email me, Taylor, at email@example.com and I will respond promptly
Source: The Hunting Ground