La Trobe University (Bundoora Campus) will Monday night (29 February) screen The Hunting Ground:
THE HUNTING GROUND is a critically acclaimed feature documentary that chronicles the personal stories of students who have been sexually assaulted on American university campuses. Interweaving observational footage, expert insights and first-person testimonies, the film follows survivors pursuing both their education and justice in the face of institutional failure to respond effectively and appropriately to their reports.
This confronting exposé of sexual assault on American university campuses has sparked a national debate in the United States about rape culture, sexual consent and victim support.
The Hunting Ground is made available for university screenings by The Hunting Ground Project Australia:
The Hunting Ground Australia Project is using the documentary as a tool to engage Australian universities, and the broader community, in a collaborative, comprehensive and unified campaign around the incidence of, and responses to, sexual violence on Australian university campuses.
While there are significant cultural, financial and structural differences between American and Australian universities and student life, consultation with relevant stakeholders has confirmed that there are issues raised by the film that are relevant in an Australian context.
As you’ve probably gathered from the “rape culture” reference and it’s title, The Hunting Ground isn’t actually a documentary, it’s an advocacy film.
In December 2015, 19 Harvard Law School professors jointly and very publicly slammed the film:
This purported documentary provides a seriously false picture both of the general sexual assault phenomenon at universities and of our student Brandon Winston. For an investigative journalist’s in-depth story demonstrating the biased, one-sided nature of the film and its unfair portrayal of Mr. Winston, see Emily Yoffe, “How The Hunting Ground Blurs the Truth,” Slate, June 1, 2015.
With respect to Mr. Winston, the film gives the impression that he, like others accused in the stories featured in the film, is guilty of sexual assault by force and the use of drugs on his alleged victims, and that he, like the others accused, is a repeat sexual predator.
There have been extensive factual investigations and proceedings examining the facts of Mr. Winston’s case, at Harvard Law School, before the grand jury in connection with criminal charges brought against him, and before the jury in his criminal trial. There was never any evidence that Mr. Winston used force, nor were there even any charges that he used force. No evidence whatsoever was introduced at trial that he was the one responsible for the inebriated state of the women who are portrayed in the film as his victims.
Nor was any body vested with final decision-making authority persuaded that Mr. Winston was guilty of any sexual assault offense at all. The Harvard Law School Faculty concluded after extensive review of the facts that there was insufficient evidence to support the charges made against him, and that he should therefore be reinstated as a student at the Law School. The grand jury refused to indict him on the most serious sexual charges against him, and refused to indict him on any charges involving Ms. Willingham. It is of course highly unusual for a grand jury to reject a prosecutor’s request to indict. The trial jury found Mr. Winston not guilty of the remaining sexual charges against him (charges involving Ms. Willingham’s friend). And the trial judge concluded at sentencing on the basis of Mr. Winston’s character and the limited nonsexual misdemeanor charge on which he had been convicted, that he should be given no more than a sentence of brief probation.
Nor did the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, in finding Harvard Law School responsible for certain Title IX violations, vindicate Ms. Willingham’s claims against Mr. Winston or fault the Faculty’s conclusion that the Law School’s charges against him should be dismissed and he should be readmitted to the School.
We believe that Brandon Winston was subjected to a long, harmful ordeal for no good reason. Justice has been served in the end, but at enormous costs to this young man. We denounce this film as prolonging his ordeal with its unfair and misleading portrayal of the facts of his case. Mr. Winston was finally vindicated by the Law School and by the judicial proceedings, and allowed to continue his career at the Law School and beyond. Propaganda should not be allowed to erase this just outcome.
HLS professor Jeannie Suk not only signed the public statement, she wrote a scathing article at The New Yorker.
The Washington Examiner summarises:
The accusation involved former Harvard student Kamilah Willingham, who claimed in the film that she and a friend passed out after a night of drinking and were forcibly sexually assaulted by their male friend, who possibly drugged them. Willingham claims Harvard had an “extreme reluctance to believe her” and that even though the school suspended the accused student, it allowed him to return to campus.
The film makes it seem as if the accused student was almost immediately allowed back on campus. In reality, he was suspended for an entire year. The charges were dropped when he was allowed to return to campus. The film also states that the accused student was later indicted for sexual assault, making it seem as though Harvard allowed a dangerous man to return to campus.
But that’s not what happened. The accused student, Brandon Winston, was not indicted on a separate accusation, but on the same accusation from Willingham and her friend. He was not indicted on the serious charges of sexual assault, nor was he indicted for any charges relating to Willingham. Willingham had proven to be an unreliable witness, having presented a condom she claimed to have been used by Winston during the rape of her friend. The condom actually belonged to a different male student, who had used it with Willingham.
As for the claim of drugging, no drugs were found in Willingham or her friend, except for the cocaine she had willingly used and distributed amongst her friends the night of the incident.
The grand jury did indict on lesser charges, but the jury trial found him not guilty for the remaining sex charges. He was found guilty of only a misdemeanor of a “nonsexual nature.”
Further hampering “The Hunting Ground’s” portrayal of the Winston case is the fact that even the Education Department, in its investigation into Harvard’s alleged mishandling of sexual assault accusations, failed to vindicate Willingham’s claims.
The Hunting Ground isn’t educational, it’s feminist indoctrination.
Note: The Australian version is 45 minutes shorter than the U.S. version. It’s not clear what has been omitted.
Update: Shenanigans at Wikipedia:
A crew member from “The Hunting Ground,” a one-sided film about campus sexual assault, has been editing Wikipedia articles to make facts conform with the inaccurate representations in the film.
Update II: La Trobe Vice Chancellor John Dewar spruiks the film:
Our concern is the safety and wellbeing of students and staff and we want to ensure that no one within the La Trobe community feels alone. We are always here to listen, believe and support.
I encourage you to attend one of The Hunting Ground screenings and to be part of the positive changes that are needed to ensure that our campuses are safe places for everyone. Together, we can help to eliminate violence from Australian society.
The after-screening panel discussion is moderated by femifascist Clementine Ford; no possibility of anti-male bias here folks.
Update III: The promotional blurb for a screening at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image:
A sobering exposé of rape culture on American college campuses from the Emmy award-winning team behind The Invisible War. Through vérité footage, expert insights and first-person testimonies, the film follows undergraduate survivors pursuing justice – and equal access to an education under the law – in the face of institutional cover-ups, harassment and belittlement.
So we’ve moved from sparking debate about rape culture to exposing rape culture. ACMI’s pitch for The Hunting Ground conflicts with one of the organisation’s core values intended to cultivate “critical” film consumers:
We are fair and trustworthy in all of our dealings, we are honest and clear with compassion and empathy, and we respect diversity and difference.
Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network on US campus sex assaults:
In the last few years, there has been an unfortunate trend towards blaming “rape culture” for the extensive problem of sexual violence on campuses. While it is helpful to point out the systemic barriers to addressing the problem, it is important to not lose sight of a simple fact: Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community, to commit a violent crime.
While that may seem an obvious point, it has tended to get lost in recent debates. This has led to an inclination to focus on particular segments of the student population (e.g., athletes), particular aspects of campus culture (e.g., the Greek system), or traits that are common in many millions of law-abiding Americans (e.g., “masculinity”), rather than on the subpopulation at fault: those who choose to commit rape. This trend has the paradoxical effect of making it harder to stop sexual violence, since it removes the focus from the individual at fault, and seemingly mitigates personal responsibility for his or her own actions.
By the time they reach college, most students have been exposed to 18 years of prevention messages, in one form or another. Thanks to repeated messages from parents, religious leaders, teachers, coaches, the media and, yes, the culture at large, the overwhelming majority of these young adults have learned right from wrong, and enter college knowing that rape falls squarely in the latter category.
Rape culture exists only in the minds of fringe feminists.