The Hunting Ground (100mins, 2015) is a critically acclaimed US feature-length documentary which chronicles the personal stories of students who have reported sexual assault on campuses, and the failure of a number of American universities to respond effectively and appropriately to these reports.
It is the latest film by Oscar-nominated filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering who made The Invisible War—a film directly responsible for influencing government policy and laws on how the US armed forces responded to and prevented sexual assault. In Australia we will be using the 58 minute international version of The Hunting Ground for campus screenings.
UPDATE: The issue of sexual violence on Australian university campuses had not, until we began this project, been subject to the same degree of attention in Australia as in the U.S.
Significant philanthropic grants and in-kind pledges made at the Good Pitch event provided support for the formation of a campaign team to drive and implement the impact campaign.
Since we began in 2015, our campaign objectives have been implemented and extended. The success of our key objective to use the film to catalyse the involvement of the whole university sector was best demonstrated in the uptake by all 39 Australian Universities of the first national survey into sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities. The results of that survey, undertaken by the Australian Human Rights Commission, are available in the report 'Change The Course' online at humanrights.gov.au, the recommendations from the Australian Human Rights Centre report "On Safe Ground" can be read online at ahrcentre.org.
We are now working with a number of individuals, campaign organisations and student led organisations to ensure the recommendations universities agreed to undertake are implemented and maintained, and working toward ensuring the changes we have seen take place are sustainable and enduring.
The Hunting Ground Australia Project seeks to engage in cultural change. Seeking a reduction in the incidence of sexual violence, assault and sexual harassment have had ongoing community support for decades now. We know they are still significant issues. With the current climate of awareness and conversation around respectful relationships, encompassing bullying in school, children being taught to be upstanders, and a community response and interest in domestic violence including the corporate world understanding domestic violence affects in the workplace, we feel now is the time – a time of renewed energy in the sector and an opportunity to make a difference.
Aims & Objectives
The Australian impact campaign is being developed in consultation with key stakeholders engaged in, or with overarching responsibility for, addressing sexual assaults on university campuses. “The Hunting Ground Australia Project” proposes to implement a multi-year campaign in Universities across Australia, working with student bodies and staff in faculty, residences, colleges, across all areas of campus life to impact in several ways.
The impact campaign has involved a number of streams including:
a campus screening program of The Hunting Ground
development of an independent national survey
development of model protocol and policy frameworks for university responses to reports of sexual violence
adaptation of existing sexual ethics, consent and bystander training, for use in a university context
You can read about the campaign on our website http://www.thehuntinggroundaustralia.com.au/about-thg-australia/
The Hunting Ground Australia Project will use the documentary as a tool to engage Australian universities, and the broader community, in a conversation around issues concerning sexual assault and harassment, consent, disclosure and reporting on university campuses.
The Hunting Ground Australia Project notes that there are significant cultural, financial and structural differences between American and Australian universities and student life. It is also important to note that The Hunting Ground Australia Project has not come across evidence of any institutional cover-up by Australian universities in relation to reports to date of sexual violence.
However, there are issues raised by the film that are relevant in an Australian context that will enable conversations concerning the effectiveness of existing procedures, protocols and institutional responses; the issue of victim blaming; the impact of alcohol; interpretations of consent; bystander engagement; the prevalence of sexual crime and reporting of those crimes and the need for comprehensive data to inform the conversation.