The Hunting Ground, a breakthrough documentary directed by Kirby Dick and produced by Amy Ziering, has uncovered the epidemic of sexual assault and rape on America's college campuses and the efforts by college officials to suppress these cases. The film has been screened at more than almost 1000 universities, high schools, government offices and community centers -- awakening the nation to this pressing issue. Screening the film in communities throughout the country has created a national conversation among students, parents, administrators, government and media, resulting in a wake up call, demanding a cultural change. Our eyes are now wide open and the movement to protect our daughters and sons by ending the tolerance for campus sexual assault is growing.
Despite the white noise campaign to discredit the film, there has been tremendous and unprecedented progress in new campus policies and regulations. The backlash claims that some of the campus rape date was exaggerated or simply false has been disproved over and over again. In fact, just recently the one-in-five college sexual assault statistic has been validated in a new poll by the Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation.
Students on campuses across the United States are contributing to an inevitable transformation whereby more respectful environments can be fostered allowing students who have been assaulted greater receptiveness to report crimes and seek help. All victims of crimes on campus should feel confident that their claims will be treated seriously and not ignored to protect a school's, or classmate's reputation.
Students on large and small, public and private campuses across the country have seen the film, and a cultural shift is burgeoning. A bottom up movement is underway in creating a more respectful environment on college campuses, one where students who have been assaulted feel their claims will be treated seriously and not ignored to protect the university's reputation.
A student-led national network has created awareness campaigns and education programs, furthering prevention and intervention strategies. The engagement of male students has made significant impact, involving men and fraternities as responsible parties in the status of sexual assault on their campuses.
Young men are stepping forth and speaking out about honoring the necessity of "consent" as the acceptable norm, and not a threat to manhood. Achieving gender true equality, as well as the prevention of harassment and assault is simply an impossible goal without changing the lives and mindsets of male students, faculty and administrators, collectively. It's been long enough that potential male allies have been left out of the conversation regarding rape on campuses of higher education. The issues women, men, members of the LGBTQ community and all vulnerable populations endure can, and must be addressed universally. A student led national network has created awareness and education campaigns, furthering prevention and intervention strategies.
The film has also been a catalyst for legislative reform. Senators McCaskill and Gillibrand, inspired by The Hunting Ground, have led a bipartisan group of their colleagues in cosponsoring a campus sexual assault bill in the Senate, the Campus Accountability and Safety Act. The law would require colleges and universities to designate Confidential Advisors to serve as a confidential resource for victims of crimes committed against a student. It would also create a standardize university processes for dealing with cases of sexual violence; make their disciplinary proceedings conform to national standards, and establish stiffer penalties for Title IX violations. The bill also suggests a biannual survey of students at every university in the country to gain insight on their experiences with sexual violence.
Unfortunately, the struggle continues with Senators Gillibrand and MacCaskill now fighting against national fraternity and sorority organizations that are pushing for a House bill that would make it more difficult for colleges to punish alleged perpetrators of sexual assault.
Governors in states across the country have been inspired by the film to create new policies such as Governor Cuomo's "Enough is Enough" legislation, requiring that both private and public institutions in New York, adhere to reporting protocols and victim peer and professional support . This law inspired more than 40 mayors from the state to support similar legislation in their cities. And Chancellor Mike Powers of the University of Alaska Fairbanks released a pubic apology to rape survivors for the school's failure to stand up for victims.
Additionally, Lady Gaga joined the film's campaign to end tolerance of sexual assault on campuses with her award-winning song, "Till it Happens To You," featured in The Hunting Ground. Other countries have motivated to face the issue of sexual assault on college and university campuses-to no small degree because of inspiration from the film. Australia and the United Kingdom have both begun to implement new policies protecting students and requiring schools to report crimes of rape and sexual assault.
Everyone benefits from creating a more respectful environment on college and university campuses where students who have been assaulted feel their claims will be treated seriously and fairly -- both for the victim and the accused.