In 2012, Florida State University freshman Erica Kinsman was repeatedly told to “think twice” before naming her alleged rapist when she reported the assault to campus authorities. Because the perpetrator was a star on the campus football team and had a bright future ahead of him, Kinsman watched as her case was mishandled (and neglected by Tallahassee police for 10 months) and the man she accused of raping her after a few drinks at a local bar not only walked free but was praised for his sports performances. The trauma of the incident, including threats and harassment instead of advocacy and support, led Kinsman to drop out of school.
Though Kinsman's case garnered widespread publicity because of her perpetrator's status in the college football world, her experience has become a common one among the many women and men who report their rapes on college campuses across the nation. Kinsman's story, and the stories of many others who are no longer remaining silent about the growing problem, are highlighted in a new documentary, The Hunting Ground, which screens in Santa Cruz and at Stanford this month.
Filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Zierling are no strangers to the world of misconduct and victim-blaming within institution-related rape cases. The team brought the world of military sexual assault to light in their 2012 award-winning documentary The Invisible War, which exposed the twisted, unethical treatment of sexual assault survivors in active military duty. On screening tours the pair were repeatedly approached by audience members who saw parallels between the mishandling of military rapes and those on college campuses.
The Hunting Ground, titled so because of the manner in which college rapes are seen as calculated, premeditated acts against young, vulnerable students, premiered at Sundance in January. Though the film has been met with both skepticism and applause, it has also prompted at least 95 on-campus investigations of sexual assault. Most importantly, however, the film has also sparked much-needed dialogue and advocacy for victims of rapes -- on campus and elsewhere.