Film addresses national college campus sexual assaults

A girl walks across campus alone. “The Hunting Ground” tackles the topic of campus assaults and their toll on victims.  “The film exposes sexual violence as a prevalent problem on campuses of higher education across the country.  It looks at college campuses as territory for predators,” said Coordinator for Women’s Studies Emily Kelley.

By Life Editor Melissa Parker

Students and faculty have the opportunity to learn about a side of campus sexual assaults no one talks about Oct. 27.

“The Hunting Ground” is a startling exposé of sexual assault on U.S. campuses, institutional cover-ups and the brutal social toll on victims and their families, according to the website.

Title IX and the Center for Women’s Studies are bringing the film to campus, with a discussion panel to follow, as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, said Coordinator for Women’s Studies Emily Kelley.

“The film exposes sexual violence as a prevalent problem on campuses of higher education across the country,” she said. “It looks at college campuses as territory for predators.”

The film and panel are part of the Citing Cinema Film Series, Kelley said.

Senior Brooke Leonard is one of the students who created the series.

Leonard said she received an email from Kelley asking if she was interested in showing “The Hunting Ground.”

“Once I watched it, I was sold because it’s such a prevalent issue,” she said. “I hope it’ll just bring awareness to the fact that this is an epidemic on our college campuses.”

Freshman BJ Oakley said he encourages his friends and football teammates to see the film.

“That’s just something that’s always been a big problem in colleges, and we just really need to stop that,” he said.

Kelley, who is a member of the Title IX Education and Advisory Board, said the film puts faces on something they have been studying and working on.

“I’ve known the numbers, but watching the film, for me, brought forth a visceral reaction,” she said. “I think it will do the same for other people watching the film.”

Junior Leslie Fuller said she thinks the film is important because people do not talk about sexual assault enough.

“I think it’s really good because it shows the harsh reality of assault on campus, especially sexual assault,” she said. “(It’s important) just to show to everyone that it does happen and happens frequently on many different college campuses.”

The film is an hour long, and Kelley said she hopes seeing the faces of the survivors makes it real for everyone, especially those who do not believe it happens.

“These are filmmakers with a mission, and they have really accomplished something amazing in this video,” she said.

Tammy Jacques, Title IX Coordinator, said she thinks the film will bring up questions about how college campuses handle sexual assault cases.

“What I think will be beneficial about the program, in particular, is it’s going to be able to create dialog about how UNA is going to handle those cases,” Jacques said.

A lot of institutions are trying to address these issues, but everyone has to do better, she said.

Executive Director of Shoals Crisis Center Samantha Belville, Director of Student Counseling Services Lynne Martin and Jacques will be answering questions during a panel discussion after the film.

Jacques said she hopes to have some good dialog with students about how other institutions have handled things and how UNA plans to be different.

“‘Some schools didn’t get it right. How’s UNA going to get it right?’ I expect that. That’s a fair question,” she said.

Each program will contain the lyrics to Lady Gaga’s “Til it Happens to You,” Kelley said. The song addresses college campus sexual assaults.

“That video does a great job portraying how community really does help a survivor,” said Kaylie Pennington, Victim Service Coordinator at the Shoals Crisis center. “It’s the friends rallying around that survivor, that victim, that helps them through it.”

When you see something happening or hear someone make a hurtful comment, say something, she said.

“It takes courage to do that,” Pennington said. “Imagine if that person that this happened to was standing right next to them, and they didn’t know it, and they said, ‘she shouldn’t have gone out that late,’ or ‘she shouldn’t have gone to his dorm room.’”

Doors open at 6 p.m. The film begins at 6:30 p.m.