The Hunting Ground opens with a montage of high school students joyfully reacting to their acceptances into college. The montage then gives way to a sobering statistic: one in five female students will be sexually assaulted before they graduate. More disturbing, though, is the fact that in the vast majority of cases, their attackers will get away with it.
The reasons for how so many attackers are able to get away with it is the primary focus of The Hunting Ground. Account after account by victims go into detail about their experiences with rape by fellow students, followed by an institutional effort to avoid and/or deny the allegations in the name of marketability.
The film pinpoints different areas of college life that contribute to the prominence of rape culture on college campuses. The film places the blame on colleges that want to continue to be profitable, which falls to keeping attendance numbers up. After all, who would want to go to a college where there’s acknowledgement that a student has a high chance of being a rape victim?
Beyond the college as an institution, though, the filmmakers look into fraternity life. The film points to the relationships many colleges have with their fraternity systems; many Greek systems provide housing for their members, which results in less money that colleges themselves have to provide for their students. Additionally, fraternities are incubators for prominent members of society, members who are more likely to contribute financially to their alma maters. The film also focuses on the particular sense of entitlement felt by star athletes, who have the backing of not only colleges and their alumni, but corporations that make billions of dollars off of them.
The Hunting Ground does take some time, minimal as it may be, to talk about male-on-male rape on college campuses, and the difficulty in determining the prominence of these rapes due to most victims not coming forward. But the bulk of the focus is on the female victims of rape, many of whom are shown not only speaking out on camera about their assaults, but actively working to turn a horrifying moment in time into something to help others.
This is, thankfully, not an even-sided documentary. Filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering have committed to telling a specific side to an ugly series of stories affecting college students across the country. This is a film that should leave viewers angry, and primed to demand change.