Director Kirby Dick and producer Amy Ziering, made the 2012 documentary The Invisible War, which took a look at the epidemic of rape within the American military, and won 2014 Emmy Awards for Best Documentary and Outstanding Investigative Journalism, Long Form, a 2013 Peabody Award and the 2012 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award. It was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. They now shift the focus to sexual assault on the American college campus with their new film, The Hunting Ground, a Radius TWC release that premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and opened in theatrical release February 27.
Among the sobering statistics documented in the film are the following:
1. One in five college women will be sexually assaulted.
2. One in 33 college men will be sexually assaulted.
3. Only five percent of campus assaults are reported.
4. Experts say false reports account for only two to ten percent of charges made -- meaning between 90 and 98 percent are true.
5. As many as 90 percent of reported assaults are acquaintance rapes.
6. Serial predators are responsible for 91 percent of all sexual assaults on campus.
7. Serial predators will commit an average of six assaults during their college years.
Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering sat down recently to discuss these and other disturbing facts about The Hunting Ground. Here's what transpired:
This is an unofficial sequel, in many ways, to The Invisible War.
Amy Ziering: Yeah, it indirectly came out of that film, but when we were taking Invisible War around college campuses, after nearly every screening, people would approach us and say that what happened to these people in the military happened to them on campus. Then we started getting emails about the same thing. We were surprised about this, and didn't realize it was as big a problem as it was, so we decided to jump into it and make this film.
You profile two very brave women, Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, who were victims of sexual assault on their campus, and they become the main focal point of the film.
Kirby Dick: When we were researching, we did so all over the country and Annie and Andrea had just filed their Title IX complaint, and were just starting to speak about this issue as a national one. We could see that they really wanted to change things not just at UNC Chapel Hill, but at schools across the country. Our very first shoot involved them and two other activists from the Know Your IX organization. We wanted to start following them because they were very ambitious and dynamic and to be fair, we had no idea they'd be so successful. We didn't think that a year and a half later as a result of their work and those like them, that sexual assault on college campuses was a topic that would be debated nationally, and they'd be invited to the White House. It was really exciting to see their story develop.
It was nice to see their argument finally being given credibility. Do you see the problem being a geographical one, say more so in the south or the west, or is it just universal?
KD: Definitely universal, or national. And it's not limited to secular schools versus religious schools, either. It's a problem everywhere, from Berkeley, to Harvard, to Florida State. If people try to minimize it by saying it's a regional problem, they're really missing the big picture. Also, we have to remember that many of the statistics might not be accurate, in the sense that they're most likely far worse, because many schools choose not to have those statistics taken on their campuses. And until they start having these surveys and getting those statistics out to the public and their students, they're still participating in a kind of cover-up.
The other thing that struck me is that the men who are guilty of these assaults are predators in the truest sense of the word. Is there any evidence to indicate that a person is born with this kind of psychological wiring?
AZ: That's another film unto itself: How to identify a serial predator. And, I don't know that either one of us are experts enough to expound on that. But, what is revelatory in our film and what we want the public to understand is that most men don't commit rape, and if these predators are able to embed themselves in institutions that enable them to do so with impunity, then they'll continue to do so ad infinitum. So that's the story that we're telling and what our focus should be: that if we put in place good procedures to investigate and adjudicate these crimes, then you can radically reduce their numbers.
Let's talk about what some of those solutions are.
KD: Schools have to prioritize. This is not a mid-level bureaucratic problem, this should be their number one or two priorities and it should be matched by dollars. They should put money into these investigative systems they have. They should professionalize them. The end result of that will be that more people will feel confident to report these incidents, and the more people that report, more perpetrators will be caught and prosecuted and for those few cases of people who are falsely accused, there will be a more robust system in place to protect them, so it's better all the way around.
Also, going back to surveys, Senator Gillibrand and Senator McCaskill's bill has a lot of great reforms, including memorandums between local police and colleges and universities, so they can work more closely together on these things. There's a tendency on many campuses now to discourage people from going to the police. This will give them an option and if they decide to go to the police, they'll be supported instead of discouraged.