After a screening of The Hunting Ground, the conversation continues By Aimee Haicken
Last month, I attended the screening of the documentary film The Hunting Ground at Spitzer Auditorium. This raw, brutal look at campus sexual violence and the refusals of campus authorities to either investigate charges or hold perpetrators responsible made for a visceral experience. This film pulls no punches, holds nothing back. Stories of rape at the hands of known and unknown assailants, of campus authorities taking no action, created a feeling of queasy outrage. I could feel every word uttered by these young women, understand their pain.
The discussions engendered after the screening between CCNY representatives and students focused on how CCNY administration helps students who report assaults, and the need for students to seek out available services both on and off campus if they experience sexual violence either on or off campus.
In the days since the screening I have looked hard at the statistics at CCNY and found that the numbers do not add up. The film avers that 20-25% of all female college students are assaulted sometime during their college years. At City College, there are perhaps a handful of reported assaults or rapes each year. Given the numbers of enrolled female students, that figure seems low, until you realize that most of that 20-25% never report anything.
The empowerment of women through federal Title IX cases as talked about in the film seems not to apply here. In the film women did report rapes, and college authorities took no actions against proven campus-based rapists. Here, the few reported cases are investigated thoroughly. Most cases involve perpetrators not involved with the campus, making the responsibility fall on the NYPD and other city agencies.
Yet, there is a need on campus for counseling services, for support. Women come to CCNY with psyches already damaged by prior assaults. Women experience violence off campus at parties, at gatherings of students and friends. CCNY needs to have counselors available, and I saw only a few at the screening.
Students suggested peer supporters during the discussions. This could help by having more assistance accessible, but such students would have to be trained to help in specific ways. It would take time to create this type of on-campus support.
By creating support systems students may feel able to speak up. Giving students the ability to speak about rape, assault or harassment is really step one. The next steps are about healing the scars and helping students forge ahead. The Hunting Ground is a film that should be made openly obtainable by students. The message about campus safety resonates, even here.
For more about the film and our screenings, click here.