Friday, March 13, 2015

Sean Kelly

Doc Thoughts: The Hunting Ground

the-hunting-groundFrom Academy Award nominated filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering (The Invisible War) comes this examination of the epidemic of sexual assault on college and university campuses all across the United States.  One in five women on U.S. college campuses experience sexual assaults, however very few are willing to report them, due to inaction and victim blaming from both the administration and legal authorities.  Some of the survivors of sexual assault, such as University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, become fed up at this campus rape culture and decide to take action into their own hands.

The Hunting Ground can be seen as a de facto follow-up of sorts to Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s Oscar-nominated 2012 documentary The Invisible War.  While the previous film focused upon sexual assaults within the military, this film moves the focus to college and university campuses.  A similarity between both films is the disturbing trend of blaming the victim and protecting the perpetrator.  Early in the film, there is an interview with a survivor of a sexual assault, who states that after reporting the incident, she was told “Rape is like a football game.  What are you going to do different next time?”

The reason given by the administrators of Colleges and Universities for their inaction and/or victim blaming is that they want to limit the number of false reports.  However, statistically less than 10% of sexual assault reports are false.  When a perpetrator of a sexual assault does receive punishment, it is often equated to little more than a slap on the wrist.

While only a minority of males on college and university campuses commit sexual assaults, they are almost guaranteed to be repeat offenders.  Also, a big percentage sexual assaults are committed by members of fraternities, many of the interviewees say that ΣΑΕ means “Sexual Assault Expected,” or school athletes.  In the latter case, the perpetrators of sexual assaults often go un-punished, at least until after the big game.  Probably the most disgusting case in the film involves a Florida State University student, who was raped by a man, who turned out to be star quarterback Jameis Winston.  Not only did her case go practically ignored for over a year, but despite DNA evidence linking Winston to the crime, the case is dismissed and Winston wins the Heisman Trophy, while the victim is shamed by his fans.

Because of this culture of victim blaming and inaction, some of the survivors of sexual assault have decided to take action in their own hands.  The Hunting Ground follows University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students, turned activists, Andrea Pino and Annie Clark as they fight back against this rape culture.  Of course, this isn’t within its own sets of challenges, since becoming public about being rape survivors opens them up to receive criticism and threatening messages.  Also, a sad fact is that any faculty members who decide to join this cause, often end up losing their jobs as a result.

Altogether, The Hunting Ground is a very affecting documentary about the epidemic of sexual assaults on college and university campuses in the United States and how this culture of inaction and victim blaming must come to an end.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ |  LOVED IT  

The Hunting Ground opens today at Cineplex Yonge and Dundas

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).