‘The Hunting Ground’ screening highlights problems reporting sexual assault

This post was written by Hatchet reporters Grace Gannon and Victoria Sheridan.

Updated: April 13, 2015 at 10 a.m.

The GW Public Health Student Association hosted a screening of a new documentary about campus sexual assault, “The Hunting Ground,” on Friday as part of National Public Health Week.

The film profiled dozens of sexual assault survivors at universities across the country, who spoke candidly about their experiences reporting their attacks to law enforcement or school officials. In the film, experts said universities may try to conceal reports of sexual assault on their campuses because a high number of reports might tarnish their image.

As sexual assault has become a major conversation at schools across the country over the last year, universities have struggled to properly punish perpetrators while offering support to survivors, the filmmakers found. The documentary showed some schools that punished perpetrators with fines, temporary suspensions, a requirement to write an essay or mandatory volunteer hours at local rape crisis centers.

More than 100 schools across the country are under investigation by the Department of Education for their response to sexual violence on campus, though GW is not on the list.

The screening was followed by a Q&A with Director of Strategy and Planning for Men Can Stop Rape Patrick McGann, former federal prosecutor and GW professor Shanlon Wu, executive director and co-founder of the National Campus Leadership Council Andy McCracken and junior Maya Weinstein.

Armin Aflaki, a member of the Public Health Student Association, said during the panel discussion that some schools may struggle to discipline students who are in sports or Greek life. He argued that’s because supporting those programs and organizations can create strong bonds with future alumni who could donate money.

“What I took away from this movie is that all advocacy efforts have to hit the college campus where it hurts, and that’s the pocketbook,” Aflaki said. “Nothing like money seems to be driving this university or any university.”

Weinstein, a sexual assault survivor and member of Students Against Sexual Assault, was profiled in the film and spoke about her frustration with the judicial process at GW. Weinstein said she waited six months before reporting her sexual assault case and was surprised by the lack of support the University gave her after filing the report.

“You’re making this huge step and you think, ‘OK, there’s going to be this process, there’s going to be these people to walk you through this process,’ and there’s not,” she said during the panel following the screening.

Weinstein, who did not detail the outcome of her 2013 sexual assault hearing at the University, said she thought the evidence in the case “didn’t match up” with the result.

Weinstein said students should not approach administrators with “pitchforks and torches.” Instead, she urged them to support student organizations that may already be planning reforms or new prevention programs.

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