‘The Hunting Ground’ addresses sexual assault on college campuses

The screening of a documentary film about how the issue of sexual assault is handled in college communities was followed by a discussion of the topic on Tuesday afternoon.

The conversation followed the screening of “The Hunting Ground” at the Cosford Cinema, which was presented by the student organization Canes Consent. It focused on how college campuses, including the University of Miami, can better meet the needs of sexual assault survivors. The film featured stories of women who had experienced sexual assault and were ignored or mishandled by their college’s administration in order to keep the school’s sexual assault statistics low.

According to the documentary, a staggering amount of sexual assaults were reported to campus officials throughout a number of years with a significantly low result of consequence for the perpetrators. It also alludes to administrations’ wariness over sexual assault claims due to fear of false reporting when only 2 to 7 percent of sexual assaults reported are false.

Women and Gender Studies Professor Katharine Westaway introduced the film to the audience and said that, according to the Association of American Universities, 27 percent of undergraduate women and 5 percent of undergraduate men will be sexually assaulted before they earn their degree.

“That means that 389 women this year and 68 men will be assaulted at UM,” Westaway said.

The documentary highlighted the journey of two sexual assault survivors to make a change on college campuses by helping other survivors file Title IX complaints against the institutions for their failure to punish the alleged perpetrators of the assault.

Title IX was created to protect students from discrimination of any sort while they pursue their education. UM has recently hired a full-time Title IX employee in charge of making sure this portion of the Educational Amendments of 1972 is upheld. However, the employee works in the Dean of Students Office, where many Title IX complaints are sent, so there is a conflict of interest according to Westaway.

Students at the screening seemed to have strong emotions at the end of the documentary, including UM senior Ja’Shoundra Pouncy, who described herself as “feeling a rush of anger flow.” She said she believes the documentary is a great beginning for a conversation to happen within the University of Miami community.

“The movie highlights a point that we all want to believe, that rape and sexual assault culture is not real and cannot happen to us or those close to us,” Pouncy said. “We also like to think that, if something were to happen to us or our friends, justice would be served. However, the movie shows that we have a false sense of security about all of it.”

Featured image courtesy Pixabay user thomashendele