WHITNEY GULDEN `16
When the credits rolled for The Hunting Ground, a film shown at Cinestudio on Wednesday, March 4th and Sunday, March 8th, stunned silence of disbelief and outrage was the only reaction.
Between the two nights, over 350 students, faculty, and visitors attended the sneak preview of the acclaimed Sundance Festival Film. Trinity was privileged to be one of only a select few colleges to view the film, and the first to have Academy Award nominated director Amy Ziering attend.
The Hunting Ground is an incredibly moving and powerful film documenting the epidemic of college campus rape culture and sexual violence, providing insight into the institutional cover-ups and struggles of survivors.
Following in the wake of Title IX investigations into over 85 colleges and universities, the film interviews survivors and activists from dozens of campuses to create a narrative around a topic of increasing prevalence in the news.
The film includes shocking facts about the way in which universities have “handled” reports from students of having experienced sexual assault in the past. Two universities in particular stood out as the most negligent in dealing with these issues, for having several hundred claims reported, but by contrast, having no expulsions in connection with the students who inflict this harm on the survivors.
The Obama administration has spoken out supporting the cause as a priority, instituting the It’s On Us campaign (which is currently supported at Trinity by the SGA).
Hosted by the Trinity College Women and Gender Resource Action Center (WAGRAC) and subgroup Students Encouraging Consensual Sex (SECS), the film showings were followed by a panel discussion of four students addressing questions from the audience.
WAGRAC director Laura Lockwood coordinated the very successful event and moderated the panel. Students on the panel Wednesday included co-coordinator of SECS Mercy Ward, Arleigha Cook, Emily Kaufman, and bystander intervention trainer AJ Ballard.
The panel on Sunday also included Arleigha Cook with SECS co-coordinator Nicole Lukac, Resident Assistant Mazin Khalil, and student bystander intervention trainer Whitney Gulden.
The Sunday panel also included producer Amy Ziering who answered many questions about the filmmaking process and her opinions of the epidemic.
Reflecting on the events Laura Lockwood commented, “The two screenings of The Hunting Ground and the subsequent discussions were extremely powerful and beneficial to not only the Trinity campus, but to other schools, parents, friends, and the general public. There were 350 attendees, which impressed the Producer, Amy Ziering, as did the level of discourse and the honesty and courage of survivors on the panel and in the audience. This film and the open sharing will break down the walls of silence and victim-shaming that discourage victims from coming forwards and enables predators to commit the crime of sexual assault with impunity.”
A review for the New York Times praises the message of the time stating, “’The Hunting Ground,” a documentary shocker about rape on American college campuses, goes right for the gut. A blunt instrument of a movie, it derives its power largely from the many young women and some men recounting on camera how they were raped at their schools and then subsequently denied justice by those same schools.
Their stories — delivered in sorrow and rage, with misting eyes and squared jaws — make this imperfect movie a must-watch work of cine-activism, one that should be seen by anyone headed to college and by those already on campus.”
The core of the film follows student activists Andrea Pino, Sofie Karasek and Annie Clark who are the co-founders of the group EROC, End Rape on Campus, which offers resourced to survivors and helps students file Title IX complaints against colleges and universities.
The film also briefly showed student activists from the group Know Your IX, who were hosted by WAGRAC at Trinity last semester.
Panelist, SECS member, and student bystander intervention trainer AJ Ballard said, “The film itself was heartbreaking, but I’m proud that Trinity was one of the very few schools that showed a preview of the Hunting Ground. I think it shows that we’re not afraid to confront these issues at Trinity.”
Laura Lockwood continued, “All campus members including the Board of Trustees, the Board of Fellows, and alums need to work together to upend the ‘rape culture’, hold all offenders accountable, support and believe survivors, and take responsibility for each other. We are making huge strides in this direction. Bystander intervention and sexual assault education training is not only required by law for the entire campus but is one of the few preventative methods that works. We are doing this. Heed the president’s call to leadership on this issue – President Obama and President Berger-Sweeney. Learn what you can do. We all have a stake in creating a respectful community with no power-based gender violence, stalking, sexual harassment, intimate partner violence or discrimination and oppression of any nature. Together we can make it happen!”
Any students interested in getting involved and becoming a part of the Trinity campus movement can contact Laura Lockwood (Laura.Lockwood@Trincoll.edu) or attend meetings for WAGRAC and/or SECS. WAGRAC hosts weekly discussion meetings Fridays at 12:15pm with pizza for lunch, and SECS meets 6:15pm on Mondays. Both groups meet in the WAGRAC lounge located on the second floor of Mather Hall, which is a safe space open to all students.