Tuesday 01-12-2015 - 15:10
The Hunting Ground is a thought provoking documentary sharing the depressing realities for those dealing with rape and sexual assault on university campuses.
Every year hundreds of thousands of freshers turn up on campuses, excited to start what they've told are the "best years of their lives". Making new friends and new experiences are expected aspects of this exciting time, unfortunately so is becoming a victim of sexual harassment and assault.
The Hunting Ground is a ground-breaking film documentary touring the UK campuses right now, sharing the depressing realities for student survivors on a US campus. The film, written and directed by Kirby Dick and produced by Amy Ziering, sparks an important conversation about the prevalence of sexual assault and rape culture in universities. It explores the barriers of justice and support for student survivors on campus, a side of the higher education system that many do not get to see in such detail.
The truth is that when it comes to dealing with rape on campus, many universities do not do enough in terms of educating students about sexual consent, the law and university policy. In our survey, 61 per cent stated that they were not made aware of any codes of conduct implemented by their university, with a further 29 per cent not sure. On top of this show of failure to take an active role in protecting students, many universities are falling short in creating accessible mechanisms to report sexual harassment and assault. This is reflected in the fact that 66 per cent of students stated they were not aware of the procedure to report these incidents while 12 per cent felt they would not be taken seriously if they did.
When you hear the experiences of students and you take into account the NUS reports and coverage in the UK media, it's fair to say this issue is clearly not isolated to the US. The silencing of survivors in order to maintain their good names and reputation is an institutional problem within the higher education system. You can see the parralels in terms of the fact that the driving force for change has been student activism in both the US and the UK.
Since its debut at the 2015 Sundance film festival, The Hunting Ground has been shown on dozens of campus and inspired a national call to action in multiple countries. This documentary isn't an easy one to watch, but as someone that has years of experience supporting surviours on campus I can say for sure that these stories are relevant to the UK. So I urge everyone who is able, to watch it, learn from it and challenge the structures and cultures in the educational communities which we are a part of. For more information about the film visit www.thehuntinggroundfilm.com.
One of my biggest priorities this year is to engage students in local and national action to combat lad culture on UK campuses. We are working with nine pilot students' unions to develop local strategies and make effective changes to policy, training education and support services in their educational communities. We will be liaising with specialists from across different sectors to make sure NUS delivers the best guidance for students' unions and universities to create safer and happier campuses. On a national level I'll be making sure that the voices of students are central to the outcome of Universities UK’s task force to tackle violence against women on campuses.