‘The Hunting Ground’ filmmakers Kirby Dick & Amy Ziering discuss epidemic of rape on college campuses

Three years after shedding light on the rise of sexual assaults in the US armed forces with the Oscar-nominated documentary "The Invisible War," director Kirby Dick and producer Amy Ziering turn their eyes to another American institution facing the same crisis: college. In "The Hunting Ground," they examine the epidemic of rape on university campuses across the country. They expose the roadblocks that make it more difficult, often by design, for victims to report assaults and for perpetrators to be held responsible. Dick and Ziering could return to the Oscar lineup for Best Documentary Feature for this film, which also has its broadcast premiere on November 19 on CNN.

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"This is something that higher education has ignored and not dealt with for decades," said Dick, who discussed the film with Ziering at Le Cirque in New York City on November 10. "Our fear is if we don't continue to talk about this and put pressure on these schools, they will do what all institutions naturally do: let the moment pass and go back to business as usual. It's really up to all of us to change that."

Ziering added that in addition to changing university policies, we also need a broader cultural shift in the way we view rape and rape victims: "Ninety-two to ninety-eight percent of the time when someone reports this crime, they're telling the truth. That's statistically consistent with every other crime in our society, and yet it's the only crime that when you report you get questions that challenge the veracity of your motive, your story and what you were doing."

What would happen if the questions typically asked of rape victims were also routinely posed to, say, robbery victims? "'Are you sure you didn't mean to give him the television?' 'What were you wearing when he took your television?' 'Were you both drinking when the TV disappeared from your house?' We laugh at those questions, but they're the first questions we always ask in these situations," said Ziering.

Victims who come forward "are over and over again ostracized, vilified and tossed out," she continued. "[We need to] stop shaming victims, believe survivors and try to move forward with proper ways to investigate and prosecute perpetrators."

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