"I thought if I told them they would take action. But, the only action they took was against me." Thus begins one of many stories told in The Hunting Ground which comes out this Friday. Since the film's debut at Sundance last month, the film has been met with equal parts alarm and anticipation. In the last few years, rape culture has been a constant presence in news headlines but never before has the reality been depicted so explicitly.
Directed by Kirby Dick, The Hunting Ground names many schools accused of mishandling sexual assault reports, focusing primarily on six high-profile institutions, including Harvard, Notre Dame, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Describing the fallout after her assault, one Harvard student says, "I went to the dean of students' office and she said, 'I just want to make sure that you don't talk to anyone about this.'"
The film highlights — in great detail — the reasons why many assault cases are not only mishandled, but deliberately covered up. Schools don't want to risk losing the considerable funds brought in by alumni and the fraternity system. "They protect perpetrators because they have a financial incentive to do so," affirms Dr. Caroline Heldman, an interview subject and professor at Occidental College.
Ultimately, The Hunting Ground contends that universities are not entirely unconcerned with campus rape, but that they are deeply concerned with protecting their brand at all costs. For all practical purposes, that means protecting a sexual assailant.
The Hunting Ground will be released in select cities beginning on February 27.