BY KRISTY DAVIS
On April 15th and 16th, multiple UGA student and alumni groups came together to present four screenings of “The Hunting Ground”, a documentary and exposé on rape and sexual assault on college campuses. The film addresses these issues at Ivy League schools, state universities, and small colleges, but makes its strongest cases against elite institutions such as Harvard and UNC-Chapel Hill. It also dedicates a substantial section of the film to Erica Kinsman, the alleged victim of the notorious Jameis Winston rape that plagued news cycles for almost all of 2014.The amassing of statistic after statistic, and multiple tearful, emotional first person narratives of sexual assault, left very few audience members at any of the showings stoic about sexual assault after watching and discussing this film.
The film provides infuriating facts and instances of not only the rampant nature of rape and sexual assault on college campuses, but the typical nature of university presidents and faculty to refuse to help the victim of the attack, defend the perpetrator of the attack, victim-blame the survivors with questions such as “What were you wearing?”, “How much did you drink?”, “Why didn’t you fight him off?”, and in one situation at Harvard, made a horrifying analogy of rape being like a football game–one should look back and think about what they could’ve done differently.
Number of reported sexual assaults/number of expulsions from 2008 to 2013:
Harvard (135/10), Berkeley (78/3), Dartmouth (155/3),
Stanford (259/1), UNC(136/0), UVA (205/0).
The efficiency of the film is found in the palpable anger of the victims of sexual assault, and for some, the anger is geared more toward the way their university, the university that welcomed them with a promise of education and protection, betrayed them in the handling of cases. At UNC, administrators blamed the women that reported their assault and protected the feelings and future of the perpetrator. At Harvard, the Dean of Students questioned one victim on whether or not she had misled the perpetrator in their friendship. In many other featured cases, the institutes promised action and didn’t follow up, or had no recollection of the event after time passed and made no action to prevent sexual assault from happening again on campus.
Two of the most famed breeding grounds for these types of assault were explored in this film as well: fraternity houses and athletic programs. In the film, the camera moved from campus to campus across the nation and exposed how faulty the relationship between the universities and fraternities can be, and the price that victims of sexual assault have to pay. Explaining it as a contractual relationship, it was said that since a huge percentage of alumni donations came from fraternity alumni, universities promote the positive aspects of fraternities while failing to give warning of the negative and dangerous aspects as well and that when universities do promote any negative aspect, the results are disastrous.
A couple years ago at Wesleyan, the university sent out an email advising all students to stay away from a certain fraternity (that had been the location of multiple sexual assaults) because they could not secure it as a safe location. Almost instantaneously, the fraternity members, the members’ parents, and fraternity alum went absolutely ballistic. The following year, they didn’t send out an email warning incoming students and by Halloween, a female student was violently raped  at that fraternity.
A substantial portion of the film was given to exploring the issues with sexual assault in the athletic program (less than 4% of college males are college athletes, yet athletes are the perpetrators in almost 20% of the reported sexual assaults on college campuses).
Most notably, the film explored the case of Erica Kinsman, one of the alleged victims of Jameis Winston. Kinsman explained how she was drugged and violently assaulted by Winston and that none of the faculty or staff on campus, the FSU Police Department or the Tallahassee Police Department, wanted to help her or advocate for her. Tallahassee Police refused to test Winston’s DNA for months afterwards, and advised her threateningly to not pursue any punishment against Winston.
ESPN reporters such as Skip Bayless made statements on national television like, “How unfortunate it is for this young man,” and many college students and fans of Florida State made public threats to both Kinsman and her sorority sisters. Both the community of Tallahassee and the NCAA didn’t hold Jameis Winston, the star football player who might lead FSU to the National Championship game, to the same standard as they would hold any normal human being. Because of this, Kinsman, and all victims of sexual assault that sought justice, suffered immensely.
FSU is not the only campus to choose an athlete’s ability to play well and possibly bring in more money to programs and to the university over the consequences that accompany perpetrators of sexual assault; UGA has been guilty of the same kind of oversight. Michael Adams, president of the University of Georgia from 1997-2013, allowed a basketball player twice accused of sexual assault to continue to play in basketball games, and this student was later accused of instigating a gang rape of another UGA student. The District Attorney ultimately dropped the case.
The bottom line of “The Hunting Ground” is that the way sexual assault is handled on college campuses is abhorrent and needs to be changed. If students cannot trust their universities to believe them and protect them against sexual predators, then there is a huge problem in how universities are treating their students. Perpetrators that are expelled are much more likely to sue the university than survivors, and because of the desire to avoid lawsuits, universities consistently let victims of sexual assault fall the to side while allowing sexual predators to remain on campus and possibly harm more students.
Exposing college students to the statistics, personal accounts, and facts of sexual assault forces those students to address sexual assault and rape in a way that might be uncomfortable. However, that discomfort pales in comparison to the discomfort of knowing that if such a thing were to happen to you, or someone you know, your own university may not protect or help you.
“The Hunting Ground” provokes strong emotions in each audience member, asking each student to fight against the institutionalized systems that refuse to fight for them, and demands that at bare minimum, college campuses start talking about the epidemic that is sexual assault and rape.