While most moviegoers were in awe of the ridiculous stunts pulled in “Furious 7” on its April 3 opening, an audience in the local Ritz Five theater was in disbelief over something else on the big screen: the lack of support for survivors of sexual assault on college campuses.
“The Hunting Ground” is a recent documentary covering this national issue and how colleges and universities were improperly helping survivors of sexual assault. Ian Rose, a 2013 Temple graduate, was an associate producer for the film.
Rose gained film experience through projects like covering Temple’s neighboring communities, as well as students who were victims of sexual assault. As part of Temple’s Los Angeles study abroad program, Rose was eventually hired as a production assistant to start working on “The Hunting Ground,” which he said was engaging, as he learned more about the issue.
“It’s more of a coincidence, but it’s interesting that we had kind of dealt with the issue way earlier, just having no idea of what the whole issue surrounding it was,” Rose said.
Rose’s work on the film included research, conducting interviews and coordinating shoots at more than two dozen campuses around the nation. Now, as the documentary is being screened in cities and campuses all over, with Q-and-A sessions with local experts and advocates afterward, Rose said he realized the far-reaching effect this project could have.
“The big thing is just kind of getting people to start conversations and raise the level of awareness,” Rose said.
Carol Tracy, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania who received her law degree from Temple, was one of the panel members that participated in a discussion after the screening at Ritz Five. A longtime advocate of preventing rape on campuses, having participated in a 1973 sit-in at Penn which ended up creating the school’s Women’s Center, Tracy mentioned how this old issue persists because of things like the assumptions by college administrators that women lie about rape.
As the executive director of the Women’s Law Project since 1990, she commended the film’s focus on Title IX and how its policy against sexual discrimination has helped in recent years during this ongoing struggle.
“Title IX mandates fairness and I think there’s an assumption that if you say something is fair to victims, it is automatically unfair to the accused, and that is simply not true,” Tracy said. “Fair means fair.”
“What is new is this wave of demands from students to say that their schools have to do better – there’s no question that they feel betrayed,” she added.
Jacqueline O’Duor, a part-time staff member at Tuttleman Counseling Services with a master’s in social work from Penn, also took part in the local panel discussion. Having worked for more than 10 years in therapy for survivors of sexual violence, O’Duor said she thought the film stressed the supportive role that colleges and universities need to play in addressing sexual assault on college campuses.
“I thought they did a wonderful job of really explaining where the school’s place should be, and continuing to protect students because it’s so important in terms of making sure students are healthy, able to function academically and socially so that we could retain students through graduation,” O’Duor said. “So in terms of students who are coming in to get a degree, if these things happen to them, not only do we lose them and we aren’t able to retain them, but it affects their future. So it affects us on a societal level to address the issue.”
Kirby Dick, the director of the documentary, said he felt “compelled” to make the film after many requests from viewers of his other film, “The Invisible War,” which addressed sexual assault in the military. After his investigation shed light on the fear instilled in school faculty members who were afraid they would be let go if they talked about the issue, he said that a part of the solution lies with the leaders.
“I think what we really need to see is leadership,” Dick said. “We need to see college presidents … stepping up and saying that this is a problem, saying it publicly, saying that ‘You can hold me accountable, I’m going to commit resources to this, this is one of my top priorities.’”
Rose said he is working on bringing a screening to Main Campus sometime this fall, to which O’Duor said would be beneficial to everyone associated with the university.
“I think if alumni were able to come in, sit with current faculty, sit with current students and we all really get together and address this issue, it’ll only make us a stronger campus,” she said.
Albert Hong can be reached at albert. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: Ian Rose is the former multimedia editor of The Temple News.