The Hunting Ground

The Hunting Ground is a new documentary currently showing in theaters across the nation. We were lucky enough to host a screening of it tonight (April 16th) thanks to the Women’s Outreach Center and the Norman Women’s Resource Center. The documentary was featured in the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, and its director and producer are both Academy Award nominees and Emmy Award winners.

The film is about sexual assault on college campuses in the United States. Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Berkley, North Carolina at Chapel Hill, UVA, Dartmouth, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Columbia, Florida State, the University of Tulsa, and more were all touched on in the documentary. In particular, it followed the journey of two students at UNC. Both were victims of rape. Both were ignored by the college administration. Neither were satisfied.

The film features so many stories from survivors across the nation. From a Harvard law student drugged and assaulted by a close friend, to a freshman at UNC dragged into a bathroom during the middle of a crowded party, both men and women were represented as victims in this film. The wide variety yet astonishing similarities between the stories confirm a major theme in the documentary: this could happen to you.

Institutions have a financial incentive to cover up these crimes in order to preserve their reputations. They aim to artificially minimize their crime rates, and in doing so they shamelessly abuse victims. In the film, the survivors repeatedly reported having been blamed for their rapes. One was asked what she was wearing. Another was asked if she had been drinking. A male victim was asked why he didn’t fight back. One of the featured women, after sharing her rape with an administrator, was immediately told, “Rape is like a football game. Looking back, what would you have done differently?” There was not a single story in the documentary in which the institution offered its entire support to the victim. No university, from Harvard to Tulsa, was willing to do whatever it took to give these survivors the justice they deserve.

As for the perpetrators, the film provided a variety of statistics and examples of punishments. Some were expelled (after graduation, of course) and others were fined an entire $75. Expulsions related to issues of academic integrity were astronomical compared to expulsions for sexual assault. All of the schools mentioned above had approximately three or less expulsions in a year compared with over one hundred sexual assault claims. One in four college women are raped. It is obvious that institutions simply do not take these situations seriously, despite their adamant claims, particularly in the recruitment process, that they will make for their students a loving, supportive home. They put up as many obstacles as they can to make sure these claims are as weak and as slow as possible.

You can watch the documentary and find screenings at http://www.thehuntinggroundfilm.com. I highly recommend it. Everyone needs to see this film, whether you’re a student, a parent, or a faculty member.

Can you imagine the amount of courage it takes to come forward as a rape victim, to have to re-live that experience each time you tell your story? And then to be accused of lying or to be blamed for the crime?– it’s absolutely appalling. 2%-8% of rape claims are false, so why does our society and our institutions treat each claim as if it’s probably false? Why do people think claiming the most intimate of crimes is something done on a whim or for attention? By not expelling or imprisoning rapists, institutions are saying to the victims, “Your body is not worth it.” Letting athletes play until summertime is equivalent to: “Well, he’s really monetarily important to our school, even if he did rape you.” How could an institution think charging a perpetrator $75 is justice?

In addition to an array of relevant and shocking statistics, this documentary illuminates some extremely valid questions which we should all be asking our universities. Please watch the film! It will not be a waste.

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