Thursday, April 2, 2015

A disturbing look at rape on campus

The Hunting Ground is an eye-opening documentary about a serious problem.

You don't see a documentary such as The Hunting Ground for entertainment purposes. You see it because the movie will alert you to an important issue, the devastating impact of sexual assaults on U.S. college campuses.

The crime of campus rape often is compounded by the way institutions treat rape victims, who -- the film suggests -- can challenge a school's carefully constructed view of itself. With reputations on the line, the urge to minimize embarrassing crimes can be difficult to resist.

Director Kirby Dick (The Invisible War and This Film Is Not Yet Rated) and producer Amy Ziering introduce us to many women, but two stand out: Andrea Pino and Annie E. Clark, both from the University of North Carolina.

Both rape victims, Pino and Clark have pooled their efforts to counsel college women about what to do if they're raped and to create awareness among members the general public.

They've also filed a Title IX charge against North Carolina. Their complaint is built around the idea that equal access to educational programs -- the overall purpose of Title IX -- is impossible if women don't feel safe enough to move about a campus.

According to at least one survey, one in five women are victims of sexual assault. Although not everyone accepts that statistic, there's little question that those who are assaulted face a rough go.

Alcohol and fraternities can figure into the picture. If Sigma Alpha Epsilon -- the fraternity recently in the news for a racist episode on a bus -- didn't have enough trouble already, it turns up in Kirby's film. We're told that many women refer to SAE as Sexual Assault Expected.

Parents will (or at least should) be shaken by The Hunting Ground. No one sends their kid to college to be sexually assaulted by a fellow student, and it's impossible to listen to the stories told by the women in this documentary without being angered and moved.

Clearly, the problem should be a source of shame for every institution that doesn't respond fairly, forcefully and with more concern for finding the truth than for upholding an image.

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