According to It's on Us, approximately one in five women is raped while in college, and about 100 colleges are currently being investigated by the federal government for mishandling or covering up rape cases. Now "The Hunting Ground," a powerful and searing documentary on campus rape contends that colleges care more about money and image than the well-being of their students.
"The Hunting Ground" interviews both female and male survivors of campus sexual assault. Many of their stories blend together: they go to college, they are assaulted, and the college often responds with victim-blaming techniques and questions. Then, no matter how much evidence there is (including bruising and full-proof DNA tests) the perpetrator gets a slap on the wrist (like being suspended one day from Yale, or paying a $25 fine at the University of Toledo). Or, all too often, they get off altogether.
People reading up on stories like Emma Sulkowicz’s know that the way colleges handle sexual assault is a heated topic right now. But actually sitting down for a documentary — seeing the faces and hearing the stories from the survivors themselves — brings a new depth and immediacy.
In "The Hunting Ground," a male survivor remarks that as difficult as it is for female victims to come forward, male victims have the double standard of people assuming men can’t be raped.
A Harvard student reports that Harvard demanded to know why she didn’t fight back against her attacker — even though she was unconscious for much of the assault.
A dad in the film bravely opens up about his daughter being sexually assaulted at Notre Dame — and then committing suicide after Notre Dame refused to take real action.
The documentary even shows professors being fired or denied tenure after they tell the administration that something needs to be done for the survivors.
But the documentary isn’t entirely devastating. It also shows activists, like Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, both graduates of The University of North Carolina. They worked together to file a Title IX complaint against their school, and are now taking on the issue nation-wide by supporting survivors and helping them file complaints against their own schools.
"I would hope that all students know that they have a right to a safe education and fair learning environment," Annie Clark recently told NPR. "And I really hope that we put the burden on men to say: Don't rape. You know instead of telling women: Here's a safety whistle. That conversation needs to change. But I will say I know survivors out there are listening right now and I just would like them to know that it's not your fault, and I believe you, and you are not alone."
You can join Andrea and Annie's fight. Watch the film, bring the film to your community, and take action on the film's website.
Clearly something needs to be done to end the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses, and "The Hunting Ground" is spreading some much needed awareness. As Diane Rosenfield of Harvard Law School points out in the film, if universities told parents that their sons had a "1 in 4 or 5 chance of being a victim of a drive by shooting" while in college, they'd reconsider sending them all together.