“The Hunting Ground,” a Sundance Film Festival documentary, tells the story of college students around the country fighting for retribution after being sexually assaulted. It takes the audience through the lives of victims who have been neglected by university authorities. Their claims, along with researched statistics, provide evidence that a college campus, otherwise known as the titular “hunting ground,” does now supply a sufficient support base for assault victims. Oscar-nominated director Kirby Dick assembled many survivors to tell their stories in this thought-provoking film.
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Student victims, most of them women, described the unsupportive treatment they received from university administrators. After being sexually assaulted, these victims went straight to university officers in hopes of initiating immediate action. Instead, they were asked a series of questions they were not anticipating. When asked what the school administrators’ responses were after reporting the sexual assault, the survivors answered: “What were you wearing?” Were you drinking?” “Did you say no?” Frustration built up on the faces of the victims as they recounted the treatment they received.
The hardest part of their story, many activists said, was not the sexual assault itself but the nightmare of trying to gain fair retribution. These survivors hoped to receive support from school administrators but instead received humiliation. In order to keep reported crime rates down, many colleges refuse to report these assaults and ask the victims to remain silent. Schools suppress reports on sexual assaults because no student wants to attend a school known for sexual assault. This film makes a stand as it reveals the appalling truth. Now, well-known universities, including University of North Carolina, University of California-Berkeley, Florida State University and many others, are under investigation of hiding sexual assault occurrences.
A large part of this film focuses on the efforts of UNC students Annie Clark and Andrea Pino. Both women reported being sexually assaulted and did not receive adequate responses from university administrators. Disgusted with their treatment, Clark and Pino began researching ways to receive the right reaction for their assaults. This led to extensive research on the Title IX law.
Title IX states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” This law became instrumental in the lives of sexual assault activists, with Pino successfully filing a federal complaint with the Department of Education against UNC.
Clark and Pino did not stop fighting for their cause, becoming activists for ending rape on campus. They ventured to help other victims around the country fight their battle against injustice. Now, Clark and Pino are co-founders of the website endrapeoncampus.org and work to supply fellow sexual assault survivors with support. Both women attended the Sundance Film Festival to promote this documentary.
No alleged assaulters’ names were used in this film except for one, a name familiar to those who watch the news. Florida State University football quarterback and 2014 Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston, was accused of sexually assaulting Erica Kinsman in 2012. Kinsman goes public as she tells her story in this documentary.
Her account may be one of the most controversial stories in this documentary. Since Winston is proverbial among football fanatics, this story has been brought to the attention of many news sources including USA Today and ESPN. Though no charges were filed against Winston, Kinsman’s role in this documentary will certainly not go unnoticed.
“The Hunting Ground” is sure to stir up people’s opinions of universities and question administrators’ morals. As further investigation among recognized universities continues, the truth about sexual assault on college campuses is revealed.