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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

The Hunting Ground documentary review: why you have no idea how bad rape is on campus

The Hunting Ground green light

U.S. universities have plenty of financial incentives to minimize rape on campus, as this enraging film demonstrates. But there are women fighting back…
I’m “biast” (pro): love Kirby Dick’s work; rape culture needs a hearty smack

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Following on from The Invisible War, his film about the rape epidemic in the U.S. military, documentarian Kirby Dick looks at rape on American college campuses… and The Hunting Ground is almost the same film, and just as enraging. This is not a criticism of Dick as a filmmaker but of our culture, which places the safety of women on a list of things worth worrying about far below such other matters as “institutional pride” and “making a profit.”

Dick talks to women (and a few men) from universities around the U.S whose stories of being attacked are horrifying, but — as almost all of them say — the way their universities did almost nothing when they reported the rapes was even worse. Numerous former professors and administrators explain the many financial incentives universities have to minimize rape on campus, including how student athletes (who commit a disproportiate number of rapes ) are coddled and protected from accusations because sports programs are big business; many of these university employees lost their jobs for speaking out against the standard do-nothing approach to rape on campus. Fraternities are moneymakers for universities, too, we learn, so there’s no motivation to crack down on the likes of Sigma Alpha Epsilon; apparently young women on campuses across the nation know to interpret “SAE” to mean “sexual assault expected.” (Former frat-boy rapists explain onscreen the pride they took in their predatory behavior.)

This isn’t a relentlessly grim film: its central organizing structure is around a group of young women who have taken the fight for justice into their own hands, filing civil-rights lawsuits against universities and speaking out publicly about their experiences in an attempt to shame those with the money, power, and influence who’ve ignored the problem for too long. Still, as with The Invisible War, this is ultimately a portrait in how the world kills women’s passion, enthusiasm, and ambition by not valuing it in the first place. The Hunting Ground opens with teenaged girls screaming with delighted excitement as they learn they’ve been accepted at their dream schools. Some of the rape survivors we meet here are still able to say, even after their universities have let them down so terribly, that they love the school and love the education they’ve gotten. But it’s also perfectly plain that the light has dimmed in many of them.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of The Hunting Ground for its representation of girls and women.

green light 3.5 stars

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The Hunting Ground (2015)
US/Can release: Feb 27 2015

MPAA: rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material involving sexual assault, and for language

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • Allen W

    [frm LJS] Let’s start with getting the colleges out of felony investigations and prosecutions — evidence collection, sending potential evidence to the crime lab, getting statements and confessions, and knowing how to do so within the bounds of the Constitution is a job for the police and the courts, not campus administration.

  • David

    Yeah, I don’t understand why this is a failure of colleges; this should be a matter for the police. If the police aren’t doing their jobs then they are the ones who need reform.

  • David

    This is why concealed carry should be legalized on campus. If girls had easy access to pistols in their purses they’d be safer.

  • Yeah, that will totally help when a woman has been roofied. Now her attacker has a gun.

  • Take a look at the film, and you’ll see that in college towns, even the police are often reluctant to investigate rape accusations.

  • Jean-Christophe Perrault

    Let the police do their jobs. Those are criminal investigations, Universities can not and should not be doing those prosecutions.

  • Bea Harper

    Very good documentary.

  • Except universities *are* allowed to handle these cases, and — as I noted in another comment — the police will sometimes fail to investigate these cases because they’ve got connections to the schools. And the issue goes beyond criminal prosecution. It’s a huge, multifaceted problem. Please see the film if this is a topic that concerns you.

  • Terr

    Two words: Rolling Stone.

    You’re right, I have no idea how bad rape is on campus because the so called victims lie and they’re aided by famous publications.

  • Jean-Christophe Perrault

    Universities are not trained or equipped to do criminal investigations. We don’t let private companies do private criminal investigations, we shouldn’t let Universities do this either. We have a police force and a criminal court system for this. We can talk about reforming police procedures and the justice department but we can’t let everyone do their own justice on their premises.

  • I_Sell_Books

    I knew better than the read the comments, but I did anyhow. And that’s enough Internet for today.

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