Documentary Illustrates Sexual Assault, Moves Students to Talk About Taboo Issues

Part of an effort to bring about awareness of sexual assault and violence on college campuses, organizations at both Claremont McKenna College and Pitzer College hosted screenings of the 2015 documentary “The Hunting Ground” this week. The documentary focuses on assaults at colleges nationwide and the handling of these cases by administrators. The film was also screened on campus last year.

“The Women's Forum (WF) and College Programming Board (CPB) decided to show this film to present it to those who had not seen it and in order to raise awareness about sexual assault on college campuses and its growing prevalence,” Jessica Gaffney CM '18, a member of the Women's Forum, said. “We were hoping to spread awareness and present the issue in the open so as to create a more comfortable environment at the 5Cs for us to talk about sexual assault and the impact on its victims and their families.” 

Due to the sensitive nature of the film, members of Pitzer’s Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault were there to support students at the Pitzer screening, and members of the Women’s Forum and the College Programing Board were present at the CMC viewing. Following the Pitzer screening, the Advocates, students and administrators discussed what the community can do to support survivors, as well as available resources such as Project Sister and Teal Dot. 

The documentary follows the story of Andrea Pino and Emilia Clarke, two University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill students who filed a Title IX complaint against their school following their sexual assaults on UNC‘s campus. Many students interviewed in the film expressed their disillusionment and disenchantment when trying to deal with their college administrators in reporting their assault.

“The film was incredibly moving and did a great job of beginning to tackle an enormously frustrating and sickening problem,” Kathryn Harhai PZ ‘18, who attended the event, said. “Although I do have some thoughts about ways in which the filmmakers could have better represented certain aspects, overall I think the film serves as a very powerful call to action.”

In the film, over 50 colleges were called out on Title IX accusations, including Harvard University, University of Notre Dame, Florida State University and University of California, Berkeley. Though these schools are focal points, the film points out that sexual assaults are being mishandled at colleges across the United States and that it is important that it is treated as a national problem and not just an issue isolated to specific college campuses. The documentary highlights community and advocacy as key to helping bring about change.

In the discussion, panelists discussed the uniqueness of the consortium model at the 5Cs and how that affects sexual assault cases, since each college has its own policies and definitions for handling sexual assault.

As a whole, the film highlights dialogue, open discourse and acceptance as being key players in bringing about change. 

“Screenings like this serve to raise awareness at the 5Cs,” Harhai said. “Events like this provide students with a context and a space to share their thoughts and experiences regarding sexual assault.”

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