Movie Analysis: The Hunting Ground
The Hunting Ground is a 2015 documentary film disclosing the incidence of sexual assault on the American college campuses. Written by Kirby Dick and produced by Amy Ziering, the documentary features interviews of multiple students who experienced sexual assault at their college campuses and were ignored by the administrators or required to navigate the complex school bureaucracy for their cases to be addressed ((Dick & Ziering, 2016). This is because the college officials have a deep vested interest in minimizing rape statistics of the institution than the victims’ welfare. The Hunting Ground revolves around Annie Clark and Tar Heel Andrea Pino, campus sexual violence victims who embarked on a journey to advocate against the detrimental act. Parents and administrators were also interviewed. A conversation with a former Notre Dame police officer portrays harsh criticism of institutions for inadequately handling cases of sexual violence on campus. Furthermore, Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers player, is accused of sexual assault by Erica Kinsman.
The Hunting Ground paints a real picture of the prevalence of sexual assault on campus and its ugliest side of ignoring or suppressing the accusations to protect the institutions’ image. Sexual assault is a sexual behavior occurring without a person’s explicit consent (RAINN, 2019). Some forms of sexual assault include rape and unwanted fondling. Sexual assault survivors experience shame and guilt, as well as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD symptoms may include depression, insomnia, flashbacks of the incident, anger, and anxiety (Dick & Ziering, 2016). Victims often isolate themselves and avoid situations that remind them of their awful sexual experiences. Moreover, the victims are at a higher risk of drug abuse and suicide as a coping mechanism. In the second chapter, Andre Pino says, “Not only was my mind in place of turmoil, my body as well. I had nightmares that were so vivid…” (Dick & Ziering, 2016). Other survivors of sexual violence may drop out of school.
Most sexual violence victims are reluctant to report the crime because of the associated stigma the rape culture has nurtured. Victim blaming, fueled by the belief that people (especially women) who get raped must have conducted themselves inappropriately towards the aggressor, significantly mars the victims’ efforts to report the crime. For instance, in the second chapter when Annie talks about her experience, she says, “they kept asking me…What were you wearing? Were drunk? Did you pregame?” (Dick & Ziering, 2016). When victims are blamed for being assaulted, they are likely to withdraw from reporting their cases to the authority. Furthermore, males are less likely to report sexual assault than females due to the societal expectations of masculinity. Since masculinity is perceived as “tough” and men are expected to demonstrate power and authority, male rape victims lose sense of manliness and avoid further frustrations by not reporting the crime. In chapter six, Daniel (not his real name) talks about how he could not report the incident because of the feeling of shame for failing to stand up against his aggressor.
I am not qualified to judge the validity of the claims of the documentary but I find the presentations of the victim stories and conversations with parents, administrators, perpetrators, and the police tremendously compelling. After watching the documentary, I hold college and university administrators with fierce accountability for failing to prioritizing their institutions’ images over students’ welfare. Sexual violence perpetrated by prominent students like Jameis are approached with a casual shrug because of their importance to the school brand. Since sexual violence negatively impacts the victims’ physical and psychological wellbeing, there is need to care and support them and ensure that the perpetrators are disciplined. Schools should also educate students on sexual assault and consent and encourage them to report sexual predators.
Dick, K. & Ziering, A. (2016). The Hunting Ground: The Inside Story of Sexual Assault on American College Campuses (Ed). New York, NY 10018: Hot Books. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED567842.pdf
RAINN. (2019). Sexual assault. RAINN. Retrieved from https://www.rainn.org/articles/sexual-assault