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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘Hunting’ college sexual assault

    Savannah Douglas

    Kirby Dick, director of “The Hunting Ground,” holds a Q&A session after the film’s screening at The Loft Cinema on Saturday. Audience members asked questions regarding Dick’s choice in victims’ stories and universities highlighted. Dick questioned the audience on the UA’s reporting of sexual assaults.

    Stop. Take a moment to consider these nationwide statistics: One in five college women and one in 33 college men will be sexually assaulted during their time on a university campus. Chillingly, an estimated 100,000 sexual assaults are forecasted for the coming academic school year. Worse yet, only 5 percent of these assaults are reported, and even fewer are prosecuted.

    Documentarians Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s 2012 Oscar-nominated film “The Invisible War” took an investigative look into the epidemic of sexual assault in the military. Dick and Ziering revealed these shocking statistics by returning with an equally devastating companion piece, “The Hunting Ground,” which explores the institutional dysfunction on college campuses that lead to judicial powers turning a blind eye to victims of sexual abuse.

    “The Hunting Ground” is a piece of investigative journalism that goes right for the jugular — and continues to twist. Beyond the unnerving statistics the documentary cites, the filmmakers include first-person accounts of male and female sexual assault victims from across the country, including Harvard, Berkeley, Tufts, Yale, Swarthmore, St. Mary’s, University of North Carolina, University of Southern California and Florida State University. 

    These accounts were by no means “he said, she said” situations; every victim account included in the movie demonstrated the calculated attacks of predators against their victims. Despite resounding evidence against the perpetrators — sometimes including written admissions of guilt — universities nationwide took little to no disciplinary action against the rapists. Additionally, no legal proceedings were adopted by the state.

    While it’s quick to beg the question, “Why?” the answer is not complicated and is quick to follow.

    “The Hunting Ground” demonstrates that sexual assaults are quieted in the interest of money. It’s as simple as that. The more cases of sexual assault the school reports, the less appealing they become to future classes and school sponsors. As the community realizes the epidemic, funding drops.

    However, in the interest of fairness, it should be noted that some institutions took the road less travelled, avoiding unscrupulous victim-shaming and dealing with the problem directly. Punishments against the perpetrators included expulsion after graduation, summer expulsion, fines in the excess of $25 to $75, written or verbal warnings, community service or school-endorsed crafts, including handmade posters detailing 10 appropriate ways to display “affection.”

    Yet, despite the disturbing statistics and obvious institutional neglect, the documentary is also something of a triumph. Following the work of UNC victims and activists Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, “The Hunting Ground” demonstrates that not all hope is lost. The two women offered council and legal aide to people across the nation. The documentary also details the startup of their organization called End Rape on Campus, which helps people at other universities take legal action through the Title IX anti-gender discrimination law.

    “The Hunting Ground” demonstrates that community support exists everywhere. Sexual assault is a problem but one that is gradually being addressed through hard work and activism.

    The Loft Cinema, in conjunction with Dick, screened “The Hunting Ground” Friday and Saturday. Both showings were free to all students, and included a Q&A session with the director after the film. Those in attendance included student activists from Students Promoting Empowerment and Consent and the Oasis Program, as well as victims, allies and others.

    UA administration and the Daily Wildcat were mentioned by audience members during the Q&A as appropriating rape culture. One audience member cited an article from Sept. 7, 2012, that included a drink recipe called “pink panty droppers.”

    “I just want everyone here to know, that even though you didn’t see the UA in the documentary, even though you didn’t see [President] Ann Weaver Hart, it still happens here,” said Katelyn Kennon, co-coordinator of social media and outreach for SPEAC. “Silence is not support. Begrudged compliance is not support either, and there are things that we need to do.”

    Kennon said “putting pressure on alumni” is where the biggest change could be seen in response to sexual assault awareness at the UA.

    “Anyone who donates money to the UA should certainly consider putting their money in escrow,” Dick said in response to what alumni can do to help. “When the problem is solved, then you get your money.”

    Another topic of discussion during the Q&A included fraternities’ involvement in contributing to campus rape culture, including interviews across multiple campuses that had students referring to the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon as “Sexual Assault Expected.”

    “I think that nationally … a fraternity or more should take up this cause as their cause,” said one audience member. “These are guys who have daughters, as well, and I think it would be really inspiring if a national fraternity took this up as a cause. If there are any members here, I wish they would think about that.”

    Dick responded by saying that while making the documentary, multiple attempts were made to contact social fraternities nationwide, and “they always refused a statement.”

    One audience member, who mentioned in her comments that she was sexually assaulted on the UA campus three years ago, said “[Dean of Students] Kendal Washington White treated me very well, much better than a lot of girls in this documentary were treated.”

    Also mentioned in the Q&A was the anonymous Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault & Sexual Misconduct that has been introduced to the UA and college campuses nationwide, in collaboration with the Association of American Universities. Dick said that while these surveys are helpful, the information only holds power when it is released to the public.

    According to White, who attended the screening, the results from the UA survey would be released to the public, and will contain UA-specific results.

    “Schools are still developing the best practices,” Dick said. “But transparency is really important. … I’d like to see a president somewhere, come forward and say, ‘This is a problem in my school. It’s a big problem at my school, and I’m going to put money into this, and you can hold me accountable. This is what I aim to remedy during my tenure here. This is one of my signature issues.’”

    Following the documentary and Q&A, an undeniable theme emerged: If you didn’t know about this before, you do now. But knowing isn’t enough; it’s everyone’s responsibility to address the problem.

    Organizations such as SPEAC, Oasis and the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault, each of which was represented at the screening, are available to counsel and educate students, parents and community members affected by sexual assault.

    — Editor’s note: Katelyn Kennon is also the assistant online editor for the Daily Wildcat. The Daily Wildcat editorial board will address some of the issues brought up during the Q&A later this week.


    Follow Elise McClain on Twitter.

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