Critics of The Hunting Ground just show why it needed to be made
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There is a problem with rape on American campuses, and a narrative that doesn’t always include the voice of the victims. Documentary The Hunting Ground aims to help redress the balance, to start a proper debate and inspire victims to come forward. Writer and director Kirby Dick and producer Amy Ziering highlight the issue of institutional cover ups of the crimes, as well as insufficient investigations and support for victims. The Hunting Ground is extremely powerful in the way that it portrays the trauma of sexual assaults and rape, and the ongoing distress victims are caused well after the act itself. But as with any stark examination of sexual assault, the movie has come under fire from quarters who don’t believe (or want to believe) the claims it makes. The shocking statistics raised have been one main focus of criticism. For example, several surveys presented in the film found that 16% to 20% of undergraduate women are sexually assaulted in college, and 88% of women raped on campus do not report it. This reluctance to report incidents is due to many reasons such as shame, fear, and trauma from the event. However, the Independent Women's Forum in Washington D.C. questioned the validity of the statistic that claims one in five women is a victim of sexual assault at university. At a conference last year Christina Hoff Sommers stated "I do not believe that the one in five statistic is trustworthy", highlighting that this can "breed panic and overreaction". As well as this, in a Time article, Sommers states "Sexual assault on campus is a genuine problem—but the new rape culture crusade is turning ugly". But with so few people coming forward, this criticism feeds in to the current status quo and ‘head-in-the-sand’ approach to dealing with sexual assault and rape. The fact is true figures are difficult to calculate, not because it isn’t happening but more because of the stigma attached to coming forward and the refusal of institutions (and society) to take claims seriously. The sheer number of people who retell their experiences for this film is shocking, and it is easy forget that each of these victims have their own personal struggle to fight. In this way it is important to remember that these are real people and not just faces to make up numbers. The number of women whose pleas for help that were insufficiently handled is shocking. Another criticism is the supposed ‘one-sided’ nature of the piece, and the credibility of accounts included. Few ‘accused’ people are given screen time, and many of the key institutions at the heart of the problem have little say, which does, obviously skew the discussion somewhat. But rather than illustrating total bias from the filmmakers, it again illustrates the nature of non-discussion. Take as an example the explanation from Director Kirby Dick about one university. President of Florida State University John Thrasher claimed that the film is "seriously lacking in credibility", referring to the high profile case of Jameis Winston and Erica Kinsman. However Dick claimed that the university waited until just three days before the film opened to issue a response. He even kept the film open until 19th February, hoping that President Thrasher along with others would actually come forward.
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