The Hunting Ground

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I was not prepared for this movie. Being a feminist writer, I spend a lot of my time examining many of the abuses and injustices that women face in this society. I've developed the thick skin required to do such work, but I must admit that it has left me pretty numb. So when I sat down to watch a documentary on the rape crisis on college campuses, I wasn't expecting anything to shock or surprise me. But this film, focused primarily on the direct testimonies of victims of sexual assault, almost immediately elicits an emotional response. Directed by Kirby Dick, whose 2004 Academy Award–nominated documentary Twist of Faith investigated the abuses a man experienced in the Catholic Church, The Hunting Ground balances the emotional with the factual very well. The testimonies of victims, while gut-wrenching at times, never feel manipulated to manufacture a response. The editing is simple and focused, allowing the words of the victims to speak for themselves. Numbers on assault and college responses are presented boldly, without comment, as none is needed. This is also one of the few investigations of sexual assault on campus to include interviews with male victims of sexual assault, a segment so underrepresented in discussions of the crime that we don't even have estimates of how many victims there are or the scale of the problem. Throughout the film, I could hear audible gasps of outrage and surprise from the audience. A screening room filled with writers, who had all sat down to dispassionately review a documentary, was overtaken by emotion. You could feel it in the air. I could see older men shaking their heads in dismay as a young woman explained what it was like to be forced to see your rapist on campus every day. A woman next to me whispered "Oh my god" as a young woman talked about how afraid she was to tell her parents she'd been raped, because she didn't want them to look at her differently. I spent the majority of the two hours with a lump of rage in my throat as I blinked back tears. by Ijeoma Oluo
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Kirby Dick
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