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Campus Rape Doc ‘The Hunting Ground’ Premieres at Sundance

Kirby Dick’s “The Hunting Ground,” a buzzed-about documentary about the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday afternoon.

“I want to thank to the hundreds of survivors who interacted with us,” Dick told the packed crowd at the Marc Theatre before the screening. Appearing with four of the victims featured in the film at a Q&A after the screening, which received a standing ovation, he added: “This is a problem at schools all across the country,” Dick said.

The film, which will be released by Radius/TWC in theaters on March 20 and on CNN later this year, persuasively argues that college campuses don’t respond to reports of sexual assault because they don’t want to scare off prospective students and alumni, particularly when it comes to fraternity and student athletes. The film not only talks to students, but administrators, parents and even a former police officer at Notre Dame who offered accounts of how the school turned its back on rape cases.

Statistics indicate that as many as 20 percent of college women are sexually assaulted on college campuses in the United States in a year. But a tiny fraction of the attackers ever face any disciplinary action, and college hearings rarely expel students for rape.

Producer Amy Ziering said that she and Dick came up with the idea for the film when they were screening their previous documentary, “The Invisible War,” about sexual assault in the U.S. military, on college campuses. She said she’d hear from women at every campus, telling her: “You know this happened here.”

The documentary took aim at a large number of colleges. That list included Harvard University, Yale University, Stanford University, Florida State University, UC Berkeley, Arizona State University, UC Davis, USC, Swarthmore College, George Mason University, Amherst College, Brandeis University and Occidental College, among others.

One of the biggest targets was Harvard. The film focuses on a case involving a former law student named Kamilah Willingham, who graphically described a night where she and her roommate were drugged and sexually assaulted by a student at her school. “He was on top of me,” Willingham said in the film. “He had a hand inside my underwear.” The administration expelled the student, but informed Willingham the following year that he would be allowed back on campus.

Two others stories featured in the documentary are from Andrea Pine and Annie Clark, from the University of North Carolina. Both the women, who described how they were raped early in their college years, eventually formed an organization to help other victim of assault at campuses across the nation.

In the film, Clark recalls what a female administrator told her when she reported the case. “Rape is like a football game. If you look back on the game, what would you have done differently?”

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and California Senator Barbara Boxer were among those in attendance, as was Diane Warren who wrote an original song — “Til It Happens To You” — for the film, which is performed by Lady Gaga.

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