Without sounding too dark, the world is an unsafe place. Things can happen everywhere, anywhere – and a university campus is no different. To think so would be unrealistic. It is, however, not unrealistic to expect from a university that its people would do their utmost best to keep students safe at all times and support them when something happens, no matter what.
Unfortunately Kirby Dick’s latest documentary, The Hunting Ground, shows us that the latter is just plain untrue.
A large group of girls and boys are sexually assaulted during their college days. It is possibly one of the worst, most intrusive things that can happen to a person. After the attack has taken place, some of those attacked find their way to a university administrator, hoping for, or in fact counting on, support.
But if you thought this expectation was realistic then think again. It is a big step for many to seek help. It means they have to relive the experience, talk about themselves as sexually active and as a victim. The documentary shows us a plethora of girls who took this difficult path, hoping for some sort of justice.
Instead of justice, all they got was a big fat nothing. Or in some cases, even worse. They were made out to be the ones to blame, made to feel like needy attention seekers, liars or just told to suck it up.
The perpetrators, often reoffenders due to the lack of negative response, are protected more than their victims. Various reasons are at the core of this problem and Kirby explores them all. At the heart of it all is one single question: how can you expect change if you don’t recognise the problem?
In the US, where the money involved in running a university is so enormous that here in Europe we can’t even phantom it, where university college football is a multi-billion industry and where 60% of all donations exceeding $100 million come from fraternities, protecting your university’s brand is more important than anything else to those running these institutions. Even when that something else is protecting innocent, hardworking students from being sexual assaulted and raped during their time on campus.
The documentary is full of shocking facts but structured and presented in a way that they add to the storyline instead of deduct from a gripping, quite frankly terrifying narrative. It’s a film about taking back control, about bringing about change, showing what the true effect is of silence.
The Hunting Ground shows the true extent of an epedemic problem and hopefully it is a film whose attached campaign will bring about real change. See it and help end campus rape.