Documaker Kirby Dick saw the hand in the audience. It shot up and a 50-year-old woman stood. “I just want to tell you that this is my story. I’ve lived in shame with it my entire life,” she said. “This movie is giving me a chance to talk about it.”
Dick, the director of the Oscar-nominated “The Invisible War,” helmed the new documentary “TheHunting Ground” about how institutions of higher learning sweep sexual assaults and rapesunder their logo-ed rug. It’s now showing at Landmark Century Centre Cinema
The film maintains that16 to 20 percent of women in college are sexually assaulted and colleges discourage taking action because it’s not good for business, future enrollment or donations. Two students featured in the film, Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, file a civil rights complaint against the University of North Carolina after their sexual assaults. Clark cites that an administrator told her that her attack was a football game she should have played differently. A Harvard law student fumes that the man who assaulted her was later reinstated as a student.
Meanwhile, faculty members discuss how they feel pressure to remain loyal to the schools that try to avoid going to the police, because then the cases become public.
“We spoke to over 150 survivors and interviewed 70 on camera,” said Dick. “It’s such a pervasive problem with every institution. In fact, we’ve been showing the film on campuses and every time we have a screening, two or three people stand up and say, ‘This has happened to me, too.’
“In many cases, it’s the first time they ever talked about it,” he said, adding, “Over the years for many victims, the PTSD symptoms become worse and worse.”
He said that his interview subjects “had the courage to share their stories. They said, ‘I want to speak out. I want to talk about how the administration handled things because it shouldn’t be on the backs of the students to make their colleges safe.’ ”
Dick said the schools cover up the crimeto protect their reputations. “Any discussion of sexual assault is seen as problematic,” he said. “The first step is actually to be transparent about it. If you’re covering up then you’re telling survivors not to come forward and telling the perps that they can get away with it.”
The end result is an absence of justice. “This person assaulted you violently and then you see the attacker in class,” he said. “The sad stats are that the victim is more likely to drop out of school than the perp.”
For Dick,every screening is a victory for a film that began in a lab atmosphere at Sundance and then was purchased by the Weinstein Co.
Are colleges trying to shun the film? “Many schools want to screen it now” he marveled. “That is a testament to those administrations. They want to generate the discussion and use the film as part of the solution.”