MTSU screens ‘Hunting Ground,’ presents panel on sex assault prevention

MTSU presented a free public screening of the nationally acclaimed documentary “The Hunting Ground” on Tuesday, Sept. 15, followed by a panel discussion on preventing campus sexual assaults.

Click on the poster to visit the documentary website.

Click on the poster to visit the documentary website.

The event in Tucker Theatre, located inside MTSU’s Boutwell Dramatic Arts Auditorium, drew a crowd of about 200 people, made up mostly of MTSU students.

Panelists included writer and philanthropist Ruth Ann Harnisch, an executive producer of the film, and civil rights activists Annie E. Clark and Andrea L. Pino, who are featured prominently in the film and are co-founders of the survivor advocacy group End Rape on Campus.

Harnisch, an executive producer on the film, recalled her emotions after seeing the entire documentary for the first time at the Sundance Film Festival.

The documentary follows Clark and Pino, both of whom are college rape survivors, as they meet with other campus rape survivors across the country who want to file complaints against their universities.

“I cried, I was sick, I was angry …. The scope of the problem and how little was being done about it was news to me,” said Harnisch, who established the Harnisch Foundation and is a former journalist and anchor at Nashville’s WTVF-TV.

Representatives from MTSU were also part of the panel to share the latest information on the university’s resources for victims of sexual assault.

MTSU panelists included Heidi Zimmerman, university counsel; Dr. Marian Wilson, MTSU Title IX coordinator; MTSU Police Chief Buddy Peaster; and MTSU Police Investigator Jason Wofford.

Zimmerman said the university strives to be very “victim-centered” in dealing with reports of sexual assault by helping victims with access to proper medical care, counseling services, student disciplinary options and law enforcement involvement if requested.

Information about reporting sexual violence and campus resources on the topic can be found at www.mtsu.edu/sexual-violence.

Beverly Keel

Beverly Keel

One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college, more often than not during her freshman or sophomore year, according to “Not Alone: The First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault,” which was released in April 2014.

In 75 to 80 percent of those assaults, the report noted, the victim knows her attacker. And the film’s statistics indicate that nearly 90 percent of campus rapes go unreported.

Clark said the impetus for the film stemmed in part from their discovery that media coverage of campus rape and sexual assault was “very episodic” and that no one seemed to be connecting the dots that this was indeed “a national epidemic.”

Pino noted that those dots were literal. She and Clark created a large map of the United States to pinpoint sexual assaults from state to state by putting dots on the map. They realized that sexual violence “was a problem not only all around the country but all around the world.”

“I believe this documentary is an important step in continuing the discussion of sexual assault, both on college campuses and in American society,” said MTSU’s Beverly Keel, who organized the event and serves as chair of the university’s Department of Recording Industry.

“This is a painful and uncomfortable conversation to have, but it is crucial to provide a safe environment to discuss the issues addressed in the film.”

A grant from the Harnisch Foundation made the MTSU screening and panel discussion possible.

Ruth Ann Harnisch

Ruth Ann Harnisch

“I became an executive producer of ‘The Hunting Ground’ because I want to end the societal attitudes that keep us from talking frankly about the prevalence of sexual assault and to change ‘no means no’ to a culture of enthusiastic and unambiguous consent,” Harnisch said brefore the screening.

Andrea L. Pino

Andrea L. Pino

Annie E. Clark

Annie E. Clark

“MTSU is to be commended for joining hundreds of schools in showing this important documentary and talking about the issues it raises. MTSU students are influential, and I hope this event will inspire them to use their power to change the shocking status quo.”

Oscar-nominated filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering directed and produced “The Hunting Ground,” an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival.

The event was co-sponsored by MTSU’s Department of Recording Industry, the June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students, the MTSU student organization I Am Me, the MTSU Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council, MTSU Student Government Association and the MTSU chapter of the White House-initiated It’s On Us sexual assault prevention campaign.

“We want to empower our students to be active bystanders wherever they go,” said Barbara Scales, director of the June Anderson Center, in welcoming remarks to the audience.

“We want to make sure that you know that without your help, sexual assault … cannot be stopped.”

You can watch the trailer for “The Hunting Ground” below.

— MTSU News and Media Relations (news@mtsu.edu)