Stories about sexual violence and exploitation on college campuses have dominated news stories across the nation recently, ranging from the photo scandal at Penn State to the proven-false article about campus rape by “Rolling Stone” to Jameis Winston being accused of rape and the subsequent legal fallout at the University of Virginia.
Indeed, by any measure sexual assault and rape on campus are an issue. Both anecdotally and statistically, this fact has become quite clear.
What is lost in the recent furor regarding “Rolling Stone” withdrawing its story is when published, it was almost universally taken at face value, because hearing about something that heinous on a college campus isn’t surprising in this day and age.
In fact many studies claim that over 25 percent of women will suffer an attempted rape during their college career. It’s into this environment that documentary maker Kirby Dick’s latest offering, “The Hunting Ground,” has been released.
So far the documentary has been well received. It carries a 90 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and, while several college administrators have given it starkly negative reviews or released statements challenging its veracity, it has been endorsed by several U.S. senators and celebrities.
Released to only a limited amount of theaters across the U.S., “The Hunting Ground” explores two primary themes: the commonality of sexual violence on U.S. college campuses and the deep culture of covering up and prioritizing the reputation of the institution over investigating claims of sexual violence being perpetuated on campus.
In fact, one of the main claims of “The Hunting Ground” is that administrators around the nation do their best to cover up criminal investigations at schools ranging from Harvard to the University of North Carolina.
It is a good step forward that people around the nation – and especially in the media – realize that rape and sexual assault on college campuses are major issues, and this new documentary is a milestone in continuing the nationwide conversation that recent events like those discussed above have initiated.
However, the fact that sexual violence on college campuses continues to be an issue is an incredibly poor reflection on a generation of college students, and apparently administrators, who tacitly condone, enable or even participate in such behavior.
It also reflects poorly on administrators at many schools, who oftentimes come off more concerned about the image of their institutions than the safety of the students who attend them.
If you get the chance, check out “The Hunting Ground.” The filmmakers said they want to release it to a wider audience later this year and it is an enlightening film that helps to shine a light on something that people all too often still want to push under the rug and raises some serious questions about America’s college campuses.