The Hunting Ground, a powerful US film on student sexual assault, to tour UK universities

One expert tells the film how student victims are ‘discouraged from going to the police because, if they do, it’s more likely to end up as a public record’

Aftab Ali
Student Editor
Wednesday 30 September 2015 11:05
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The film highlights the #CarryThatWeight campaign which saw Columbia University student, Emma Sulkowicz, carry a mattress around campus in protest of the university's lack of action after she reported being raped during her second year
The film highlights the #CarryThatWeight campaign which saw Columbia University student, Emma Sulkowicz, carry a mattress around campus in protest of the university's lack of action after she reported being raped during her second year

A film about sexual assault on US university campuses – described as ‘startling’ and ‘devastating’ – is to tour institutions across the UK in an attempt to shed light onto a national and international problem, say its makers.

The Hunting Ground, directed by previous Oscar nominees Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, will be screened in Britain from 19 October onwards as the pair take part in question and answer sessions on, what the film calls, institutional cover-upsand the brutal social toll on the victims and their families.

Combining vérité footage and first-person testimonies, experts provide their own insights, with one telling the film: “They [universities] protect perpetrators because they have a financial incentive to do so.”

Others claim that “sexual assault on campuses is enormous” and that “universities cover such crimes up” because they are “protecting a brand.”

‘The message is clear: you’re not going to win’ – watch the powerful trailer:

The film came to fruition after a group of victims decided there was a pattern emerging at campuses across America. Wondering why no-one had connected the dots before, one expert describes how the young women have gone from sexual assault victims, to survivors – and now activists as they take a stand where, they claim, their universities ignored them.

Already shown at over 500 US universities, Together Films – a distributor campaigning for social change – says there is a similar and worrying trend of sexual assault on UK campuses and, referring to two NUS reports, adds how one in seven (14 per cent) British women students is affected, compared with one in five (23 per cent) in the US.

Based on NUS’s findings, Together Films also says there are currently no standardised reporting systems or national guidelines for how universities should respond to sexual violence allegations.

‘The second most common type of insurance claim against the fraternity industry is for rape’, states the film’s trailer (via RADiUS/YouTube)

Despite staff asking students to report directly to police, the company argues that, with this in place, the scale of the issue on particular campuses in not being effectively monitored.

One Oxford student victim told The Guardian how, regardless of the response she would have received, it wouldn’t have helped her cope with her traumatic experience.

However, she said: “I was failed by every single person I went to for help. They tell you college is meant to be your home, it’s meant to be the place you can go and find support – but they didn’t display any form of compassion to me as a human being.

“That, for me, was the biggest problem – having to be in a place when I knew no-one gave a damn about me.”

Overall, Together films claims the majority of institutions choose to focus on raising awareness of reaction (carry a panic alarm) as opposed to prevention (consent). It is now vital, says the film distributor, that this be reversed in order to inform students about the issues of consent. They also need to be made aware of the proper and effective reporting procedure if they do find themselves to be a victim of assault.

Co-founder of Together Films, Elizabeth Benjamin, described how the film will spark debate around the current issues of sexual assault in universities, adding: “In turn, we hope positive change will follow, particularly with regards to the reporting process in the UK.”

From 19 October, The Hunting Ground will be screened at the following universities:

  • University of Kent – 19/10
  • Norwich University, room MO6 – 19/10 9.30am 
  • University of Salford – 19/10 18.00 
  • University of Oxford – Oxford Union - 20/10 8pm 
  • Kings College London, B5 Lecture Theatre – 20/10 17.30
  • University of St Andrews, the Byre Theatre – 22/10 19.00 
  • University of Stirling – 22/10 18.00
  • University of Birmingham – 23/10
  • Royal Holloway – 17/11 
  • University of Cambridge – 25/11 18.00 
  • Durham University – 28/11
  • Southampton Solent – November date TBC
  • National University of Ireland – November date TBC

Visit the film’s website here.

If youd like to arrange a screening of the film, please email campus@togetherfilms.org

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues in this article, please visit Rape Crisis

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