The Hunt­ing Ground

The Hunt­ing Ground , doc­u­men­tary, rated PG-13, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 4 chiles

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - — Adele Oliveira

Two sober­ing statis­tics for any­one within arm’s reach of academia or the col­lege ad­mis­sions process: 16 to 20 per­cent of un­der­grad­u­ate women are sex­u­ally as­saulted while in col­lege, and 86 per­cent of women who are raped on cam­pus do not re­port it. The preva­lence of on-cam­pus sex­ual as­saults and higher ed­u­ca­tion’s mis­han­dling of sex­ual-as­sault claims are at the heart of The Hunt­ing Ground, a doc­u­men­tary di­rected by Kirby Dick.

Told through a mix of in­ter­views with rape sur­vivors, ac­tivists, and ex­perts, in­ter­cut with vérité mo­ments and a wealth of sup­port­ing sta­tis­ti­cal data, The Hunt­ing Ground eas­ily per­suades the au­di­ence that rape on cam­pus is wide-rang­ing and com­mon. The film fo­cuses on spe­cific cases at a few schools (Har­vard, the Uni­ver­sity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Notre Dame among them), with a par­tic­u­lar em­pha­sis on the “bro” cul­ture of fra­ter­ni­ties and elite ath­letic teams, which are dis­pro­por­tion­ately as­so­ci­ated with sex­ual-as­sault ac­cu­sa­tions.

But rape it­self is only part of the prob­lem. Equally egre­gious is the in­sti­tu­tional cul­ture that si­lences and shames sur­vivors and im­poses lit­tle to no con­se­quences upon per­pe­tra­tors. Many of the women in­ter­viewed say that be­ing as­saulted was ter­ri­ble but that not be­ing be­lieved or told not to re­port the as­sault by ad­min­is­tra­tors was worse. Rape al­le­ga­tions al­most never lead to ex­pul­sions; an al­leged rapist of­ten faces no con­se­quences at all. Late in the film, for­mer Florida State Uni­ver­sity stu­dent Erica Kins­man, who ac­cused quar­ter­back Jameis Win­ston of rape in 2012, said that she was told by Tal­la­has­see po­lice of­fi­cer Scott Angulo (an FSU alum and fundraiser) to think long and hard about whether she wanted to press charges against a star player. This is a com­mon re­frain: Vic­tims are told by law en­force­ment and ad­min­is­tra­tors alike that it is in no one’s best in­ter­est to re­port and pros­e­cute an as­sault. (Win­ston is ex­pected to be a top pick in this year’s NFL draft.)

The Hunt­ing Ground spends a fair amount of time ex­am­in­ing the rea­sons for poor ad­min­is­tra­tive prac­tices, and much of it comes down to money. Col­lege ath­let­ics are a multi­bil­lion-dollar in­dus­try, with ath­letic di­rec­tors of­ten com­mand­ing the high­est salary on cam­pus. For­mer fra­ter­nity mem­bers con­trib­ute some of the largest alumni dona­tions. And there are ad­mis­sions to con­sider; most col­leges aim to keep their crime statis­tics low — even if they have to do so ar­ti­fi­cially — to at­tract the great­est num­ber of ap­pli­cants.

The most af­fect­ing part of the film is the tes­ti­mony of the rape sur­vivors, two of whom went on to found a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion called End Rape on Cam­pus. The group guides other sur­vivors through the process of su­ing their schools for fail­ing to up­hold Ti­tle IX, the gen­der eq­uity law. In an ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem where rape cul­ture is nor­mal­ized, this work is noth­ing short of rad­i­cal.

Jameis Win­ston, Erica Kins­man, and pro­test­ers

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