Like any self-respecting nerd, I LOVE documentaries. I love documentaries about food. I love documentaries about crime. I love documentaries about…pretty much anything. One of my favorite documentaries, however, is about an epidemic on college campuses across the United States. Documentarian Kirby Dick is at it again with another eye-opening film about the dangers of institutional pride. His newest film, The Hunting Ground chronicles the stories of several men and women’s experiences with sexual assault on college campuses.
The film opens with scenes of young girls reacting to the news that they’ve been accepted to their dream colleges. There’s laughing, crying, screaming and what can only be described as joy in its purest form. This excitement is quickly shattered, however, when two girls share their stories of being sexually assaulted barely two weeks into their freshman year of college. As if that weren’t appalling enough, these women were re-victimized when they reported the crimes and were basically ignored. Several women (and a few men) also shared their stories about their complaints getting little to know attention. Obviously, the goal should be to reduce the frequency in which these incidents occur. However, when they do, they should be handled justly, which doesn’t currently seem to be the case. These institutions seem more interested in saving face than actually helping victims and punishing perpetrators. Strangely enough, those who spoke out against the treatment of the victims were punished more severely than those who actually committed the crimes. Rape Culture on college campuses is a huge problem and stems from the idea that women should be taught how not to get raped rather than teaching men not to rape women. More than 16% of college women are sexually assaulted while in college. This number is far too high and is most likely higher when considering those who don’t speak up. Universities should take sexual assault on their campuses more seriously and we as a society must demonstrate that this is not something we will stand for. Rape is wrong no matter the perpetrator or the condition the victim was in when he or she was taken advantage of.
I loved The Hunting Ground for several reasons, the first being it’s honesty. Sexual assault is not an easy subject to talk about, but there is no benefit in sugar coating it. The sexual assault survivors got extremely personal which I’m sure was very difficult to do. Even though they could have faced even more repercussions from their colleges or universities, they bravely spoke up anyway. These men and women were more than just brave. They somehow managed to create something good out of a horrible situation. I appreciated how the film focused on the efforts of Andrea Pino and Annie Clark to help other survivors of campus sexual assault such as themselves. Pino and Clark have since founded the advocacy group, End Rape on Campus in conjunction with their efforts. Between this film and activists like Pino and Clark, I believe we are well on our way to combatting sexual violence and rape culture not only on college campuses, but also in our society as a whole.
For more resources on what you can do to help end sexual violence on college campuses visit It’s On Us. Also, don’t forget to check out The Hunting Ground currently streaming on Netflix.
If you are a victim of sexual assault and need help please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) OR visit The National Sexual Assault Online Hotline