Opinion: “The Hunting Ground:” A Student’s Perspective
“When I went to an administrator to report my assault, I was told that rape is like a football game,” Annie Clark recalled during an interview. “The administrator asked me if, looking back, there was anything I would have done differently.”
Shocking survivor stories and appalling statistics caused Burke Auditorium to fill with gasps, sighs and the occasional bitter laugh. The showing of the CNN documentary “The Hunting Ground” clearly left an impact on those who attended.
The intense, eye-opening film raised awareness about the disturbingly common, yet often overlooked, issue of sexual assault on college campuses. Interviews from sexual assault survivors, such as Clark, highlighted both the emotional struggles and the nearly impossible fight for justice survivors faced.
“The Hunting Ground” also pointed out how prestigious colleges and universities dismiss reports of sexual assault in order to maintain a clean reputation and low crime statistics. Instead of offering support, the schools blamed the victims, instructed them how to avoid future assaults and allowed the attackers to remain on campus, suffering little to no punishment. In an effort to build their brand, the schools mentioned in the film neglected the rights of the students.
Despite the terrifying subject matter, I thought “The Hunting Ground” was astonishing, mostly because of the emotional effect it had on me. As I left the showing, my inner feminist burned with rage.
As referenced in the movie, one school’s punishment for sexual assault was a 25 dollar fine — a mere 25 dollars to treat a young woman as a dispensable sex object to fulfill a twisted desire.
I felt like I had been called to action. Even though I didn’t personally know any victims, plenty of survivors share similar interests and pasts as the people I know and care about. “The Hunting Ground” evoked such powerful anger and sympathy in me that I had to share the horrible truth I learned.
The amount of co-sponsors of the showing, including the Office of Campus Safety and Security, Women’s Studies Program, Counseling Center, Student Health Center, Campus Activities and Commuter Life, Residence Life, Multicultural and International Student Programs, Athletics, and the Dean of Students/ Title IX Assistant Coordinator, prove that King’s is dedicated to supporting survivors.
However, sexual assault on college campuses is still a nationwide epidemic. Whether or not sexual assault is prevalent on a specific campus should not prevent students from recognizing this serious issue.
Our culture is largely to blame for the way sexual assault is handled. Sexual assault is uncomfortable and terrifying to think about, so we naturally avoid acknowledging its existence.
Silence only increases the problem and alienates survivors, but discussion can pull sexual assault into the light, force us to confess that this sickening problem truly exists, and spark resolution. The longer we choose to ignore the topic, the more young men and women are put at risk. Their futures and their lives are impacted by our silence, especially the silence on the part of the institutions that are supposed to protect them.
Furthermore, our most fatal flaw as a society is our tendency to blame the victim by citing their outfit, behavior or location as reasons they were assaulted. Through the perspective of a victim blamer, wearing a short skirt is apparently an invitation for sex and drinking a drug-laced beverage is the fault of the consumer, not the person who added the drug.
Victim blaming is absolutely ludicrous. Everyone deserves the right to wear what they choose and spend the night out without having to worry about being assaulted.
On the other hand, no one has the right to force sex onto another human being.
Unfortunately, if society can change its view on sexual assault, it will not be immediate. Cultural change is vital, but individual efforts propel it forward.
The film demonstrated the power of the individual by following the journey of Clark and Andrea Pino. Both survived assault as students at the University of North Carolina, and later filed a complaint against Title IX for not protecting college and university students.
Standing up against sexual assault doesn’t have to be dramatic or earth-shattering.
As college students, we simply have to stand together and support one another. Sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of gender.
If someone tells you that they experienced an assault, believe them, offer assistance, and show respect. Despite popular belief, people rarely make false reports about being assaulted. If a friend discloses a deeply personal experience to you, they deserve your listening ear, open mind and kind heart.
Most importantly, if you are a survivor of sexual assault and would like to seek help, numerous resources on campus such as the Counseling Center or Campus Ministry are prepared to listen and guide you. Confidential advisors are available at both locations.
The Counseling Center is open Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., and their phone number is 570-208-5873 or ext. 5873. Campus Ministry is open Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.