We missed this documentary from two years ago. I’m not sure how, but given where I was emotionally two years ago, that may not be a bad thing.
Last year, in the wake of the outrageous ‘sentence’ handed down to Brock Turner and other college athletes who sexually assaulted women at various universities, I read Jon Krakauer’s Missoula, an incredibly chilling account of the lengths one university football town would go to to protect it’s star athletes. Sadly, Missoula, Montana and the University of Montana are but one of far, far too many college campuses plagued by an epidemic of sexual predation and violence against mostly young women. By no means are young men spared either, however.
The Hunting Ground, a 2015 documentary by the makers of The Invisible War, painfully and carefully tracks the criss-crossing of the United States by two brave young rape survivors from the University of North Carolina. Their objective is clear yet anything but simple: to call to account university administrators for their woeful and shameful inattention and at times contempt for those who dare report the assaults they not only endured but survived. In these brave individuals’ own words, ‘the responses by the universities were often worse than the actual assaults [they] experienced’.
In the wake of #metoo and what seems like daily revelations regarding sexual harassment and assaults by the rich, powerful and (in)famous, those of us ordinary individuals who have faced similar experiences and the inevitable doubt which follows from those in positions to hand out justice remain not only unsurprised but angered and feeling let down once again.
Indeed, based on the well-documented and researched figures provided throughout The Hunting Ground, I honesty felt a bit sick at various moments. Yet again.
From the proportion of college-aged women who are likely to face an assault (11.2%), to the numbers of expulsions resulting from cheating compared to on-campus assaults (the former vastly outpace the latter, which are negligible at best and quite often zero) to the proportion of all assaults remaining unreported (80%), its all a stark reminder that we collectively have a long way to go vis-á-vis believing women and men who are violated in the worst possible way.
At the very least, we should be able to ensure that those brave enough to step forward feel supported more than those who commit such heinous acts.
The Hunting Ground reminds us that we have a long, long way to go. And, given current events, now seems like as good a time as any to continue on that journey towards justice.
For more information on creating an environment in which sexual assault is not tolerated or accepted and providing supportive environments for survivors, visit It’s on Us.