Day 26: The Hunting Ground

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Today brings us back to the 30 Day Challenge. After watching Lady Gaga’s emotional performance of “Until It Happens to You” during last night’s Oscars, I decided to watch the documentary for which that song was written: The Hunting Ground.

The Hunting Ground focuses on the problem of rape and sexual assault on US college campuses. Through a collection of interviews and first-person testimonies, the documentary illustrates the horrifying magnitude of sexual assault on college campuses, and it also shows college administrations’ reluctance and ineptitude in solving this issue. While the documentary tells the stories of many rape survivors, it specifically follows in detail the story of Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, two UNC rape victims who, after realizing their school wasn’t going to help them, take matters into their own hands and file a Title IX complaint against their school. The two of them help spark a nationwide movement against sexual assault on college campuses, and their work eventually catches the attention of media and political leaders. The Hunting Ground also examines in detail the areas of college campuses where such sexual crimes are likely to happen, and it also depicts the painful trauma and aftereffects of college rape.

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This was definitely not an easy documentary to watch. Being both a woman and a recent college graduate who knows victims of sexual assault on campus, The Hunting Ground proved to be a difficult viewing experience. Despite my discomfort in watching this film, it was still ultimately a powerful and compelling documentary that I strongly recommend. It thoroughly educates it viewers on the issue at hand, and its deft interweaving of first-person accounts, interviews, and stats builds up a sense of rightful anger – sexual assault on US college campuses is a huge problem, yet it’s often being brushed under the rug by administrators who’d rather protect the school’s reputation instead of students. The documentary’s staggering statistics also drive home the magnitude of this issue, and there were some numbers that disturbed me greatly, especially when those numbers corresponded to colleges I may have gone to.

While the synopsis for The Hunting Ground may make the film sound depressing since it focuses on such a difficult topic, the documentary can also be just as inspiring as it is devastating. Although there are heartbreaking firsthand accounts of rape, the courage with which these survivors are willing to share their stories is inspiring. Breaking the silence is always the first step for change, but it’s never easy, especially when there are so many societal forces ready to retaliate and force the speaker back to silence. Thus, the bravery with which rape survivors share their story to raise awareness for this issue is inspiring. The documentary also highlights moments of victory and progress in the fight against college sexual assault, which offers audiences hope that this problem can one day be solved.

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As with most documentaries about a sensitive topic, The Hunting Ground has had its own fair share of criticisms. Some film critics and schools have accused the documentary of using inaccurate statistics, and the film has also been labeled as “shoddy journalism.” The producers have responded to most of these criticisms, and while I haven’t taken the time to investigate the accuracy of the film, I still think that sexual assault on campus is a real issue that needs to be dealt with. Some might accuse me of being biased because I have friends who are victims so of course I’d be inclined to rally around this cause. But honestly, whether the documentary’s stats are inflated or deflated doesn’t matter, for every victim deserves to have their case thoroughly and justly investigated. It doesn’t matter if it’s just one person, five people, hundreds or thousands. Anyone who is wronged has a right to have their case brought to light and resolved instead of being simply dismissed or covered up by an institution. In fact, it’s when we start debating over the numbers that our attention is diverted from the real problem and gives sexual predators time and opportunity to continue making a sexual hunting ground of our college campuses.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

***Movie Info***

Title: The Hunting Ground

Year: 2015

Country: USA

Director: Kirby Dick

Writer: Kirby Dick

Run time: 1 hr 30 min

Rating: PG-13

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