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‘The Hunting Ground’: What Admissions Won’t Tell You About Campus Rape

           It’s difficult to find a scarier experience than rape. Yet, for so many college students the horror of their assault doesn’t stop after the act ends, it gets worse. The Hunting Ground is the recent documentary from Academy Award nominated director Kirby Dick and producer Amy Ziering which exposes the systemic rape culture festering within America’s college institution. It details the many cover-ups where institutions with staggering rates of campus assaults choose to protect their image over their students being victimized. After watching the film I spoke with director Kirby Dick, producer Amy Ziering and the two main subjects Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, about their controversial film and what it reveals of collegiate women. 

 The film is striking because it takes statistics and stories that may be foreign to viewers and adds a human face. These facts are startling: 1 in 5 women will be assaulted during their undergraduate studies (roughly 100,000 students in an academic year); only 5% of those assaults are reported; serial predators cause 91% of these assaults. What makes The Hunting Ground so relatable is that the numbers are personified through a string of interviews with victims. The stories they tell are eerily similar: Administrators ignoring their complaints, giving erroneous information about reporting to police or blaming the victims. Woman after woman comes forth with questions from administrators like: “Why didn’t you fight back?” or “What were you wearing?” and she ends her story explaining that her assailant was never expelled—even when there was a written admittance of guilt.

The film shows that no instutition is innocent—ivy, private, religious. Even our own George Mason is complicit when a male Patriot shares his story of suicidal depression after his attack. The quantity is overwhelming, but when I asked about these alarming numbers Dick explained that “the point was not to focus on 1,2,3,4,5 institutions, because this is a problem across the entire country…. we wanted people to walk away to realize this is a systemic problem.”

The root of this epidemic is money. At the end of day universities are businesses and acknowledging sexual assaults on campus isn’t good publicity. In 2013 “60 percent of university donations of over $100 million came from fraternity alumni”—and when fraternity men just so happen to be “three times more likely to commit rape than any other college men,” this becomes incentive to keep quiet. The rational is similar for athletes; students who can bring in major endowments and publicity for a university but “are responsible for 19 percent of sexual assaults.” That amount of money and attention makes it difficult for a university to do the right thing. 

That is the heart of the film: exposing the reality that this is not a few bad apples, this is truly an epidemic of rape in America. Pino elaborates by explaining, “Schools are so inclined to cover up the fact that this is happening everywhere, it’s not just one case, but so many cases, and it all comes back to this culture where it’s likely to happen to you.” The film’s creators want institutions to take responsibility and hold assailants accountable, because contrary to common belief that these offenses are usually casual misunderstandings, but rather premeditated crimes committed by predators. Dick explains, “What we’ve been missing over the last several decades is leadership. It’s really time for these college presidents to come forward, to be speaking about this publically, to be transparent about the problem that exists on their campus.”

As expected, the film is very dark at times, but doesn’t end with despair. Instead it provides an empowering story of two friends. Annie Clark and Andrea Pino are both victims of sexual assault who attended UNC Chapel Hill. They file a Title IX discrimination complaint against their alma mater to seek the justice they never received. During their research for their case they uncover the sweeping magnitude of the rape epidemic. They decide to go on the road to talk to other victims and empower them to file their own complaints. 

Currently there are over ninety schools with filed Title IX complaints against them. “The difference with this film is that there is something you can do tomorrow, if anything it’s really about what’s happening on campus right now” says Pino.

 

The film premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in January and is being released to selected theaters nationwide. To find a theater near you check out the website here

Watch the trailer here. 

Cover photo is a university in The Hunting Ground, photo 1 is Andrea Pino in The Hunting Ground.  All photos courtesy of Radius. 

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Helen Ray

George Mason University

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