A New Film Exposes Campus Rape Culture—But Will Colleges Listen?

jameis winston
Sex, Family

Jameis Winston's accuser speaks out in "The Hunting Ground".

Rape and sexual assault on college campuses across the country has become a real problem. A 2014 study found that one in five women will be sexually assaulted while in college, and that statistic is just the number of those who come forward. It’s hard to admit rape when, for many women, their college doesn’t have their back when they point their finger at their rapist.

This is especially the case when it comes to college athletes. Universities would rather turn a blind eye, slut-shame the victim, and make excuses than dare to help put rapists behind bars. This has just become a fact of life on American college campuses. But a new documentary is hoping to shine a light on what has become an atrocious epidemic.

This past Friday at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, filmmaker Kirby Dick premiere his latest film, The Hunting Ground. The documentary examines the ongoing rape and sexual assault issues that women face everyday and the lack of justice that follows. Although the documentary focuses on many women, it centers around the case of Erica Kinsman who was brutally attacked and raped by Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston, while they were both students at Florida State.

Despite having been able to accurately identify her attacker and DNA from seminal fluid found on Kinsman, it was deemed that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to convict Winston. And, as December 2014 rolled around, just weeks before the Rose Bowl game in Pasadena, Winston was cleared of violating Florida State’s student conduct code, meaning he had done nothing wrong to warrant a suspension from the school which would, of course, removed him from the football team.

Although less than 4 percent of students on campus are athletes, they make up for 19 percent of the sexual assaults perpetrated. For many star athletes, their on-the-field skills and the acclaim that they can bring to the college or university far outweighs the emotional and physical damage that is brought upon their victims. Schools would rather protect the athlete by doing whatever they can, instead of protecting the victim. It’s devastating.

But while athletes definitely get a lot of protection and are pretty much given a carte blanche to do whatever they want, still other rape cases go unprosecuted. Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz has been lugging around her mattress, the one on which she was raped, in protest of the fact that the university did nothing to her rapist. In fact, the university ruled in favor of her rapist.

So Sulkowicz continues to bear the burden of being a victim of rape all while sharing the campus with her rapist. She is one of 23 students who have filed a federal complaint against the school for violating Title IX—a “federal law banning gender discrimination in education programs.” And, yes, it is discrimination, because far too often these victims are blamed. As the trailer for The Hunting Ground shows, students who are the victim of sexual assault are often told that if they hadn’t dressed a certain way or had so much to drink, they wouldn’t have been raped.

But how about this: If we raised our men correctly, then they wouldn’t rape.

Hopefully, The Hunting Ground will make university administrations see exactly what their lack of care for the victim and the support of rapists cause. No woman should have to go about her daily life knowing that her rapist is free simply because he’s an athletic asset to a college team or because a university doesn’t want a blemish on their “good” name. It’s time colleges start listening to the victims of rape instead of sticking their fingers in their ears and hoping it will all go away.

The documentary will be released in theaters on March 20 and will also air on CNN.


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