“The Hunting Ground,” a new documentary about sexual assault on college campuses, begins with videos of high school girls reacting with tearful joy to their acceptance letters. Slate.com says the film portrays college as so dangerous for young women that students might have been better off posting college rejection videos and staying home. In fact, a range of voices has raised concerns that the systems being put in place at schools to adjudicate sex-assault cases are grossly unfair to the accused. It would be a good time for a film that addresses all this, and illuminates a way forward. Slate says “The Hunting Ground” is not that movie but rather a polemic that portrays young women as prey, frequently assaulted and frequently ignored by their universities and law enforcement when they try to bring charges.
The film traffics in alarmist statistics and terrifying assertions and fails to acknowledge both the recent changes in the way the government and universities approach sexual assault charges and the critiques that those changes go too far. The film relentlessly makes the questionable point that about 20 percent of female college students will be sexually assaulted by classmates. Criminologist Callie Marie Rennison of the University of Colorado Denver has deplored the idea that students and parents are being bombarded with assertions of “an epidemic where one does not exist.” The higher education insurance group, United Educators, has a new study of 305 sexual assault claims from 104 member schools for the three years ending in 2013. The organization's Alyssa Keehan said, “The most common narrative you hear is that institutions don't care about sexual assault. Our data suggests otherwise.” UE's findings show that when a formal complaint is brought against a student, in 45 percent of the cases he is found responsible.