The topic of campus sexual assault continues to permeate both the media and universities nationwide. According to the National Institute of Justice (a U.S. Department of Justice agency dedicated to improving knowledge of crime and justice issues through science), one in five students will experience rape or sexual assault during their years at college. Now, a powerful new documentary and corresponding guide show how everyone can take actionable steps in this important issue.
The Hunting Ground addresses some of the shocking statistics and devastating effects surrounding campus assault, while highlighting different movements working toward ending violence on college campuses across the country.
After being screened at schools and select theaters, the film will have a wider release on CNN, Sunday November 22nd at 8 p.m. EST. The power of this exposé lies in the blunt and honest testimonies of the survivors and activists featured. “The film tells us what the problem is, and highlights some of the amazing work that young people across the country are doing to address the issue,” says Casey Corcoran, program director of Futures Without Violence, an organization that provides programs, policies and campaigns to end violence against women and children.
To further the conversation surrounding campus assault, Avon Foundation for Women provided a $155,000 grant to Futures Without Violence to create and disseminate The Hunting Ground Toolkit. This free electronic handbook provides anyone – including students, parents, alumni, faculty, and administrators – with concrete ways to help make campuses safer.
Futures’ involvement stemmed from their prior social action campaign, The OTHER Freshman 15. A twist on the infamous weight gain during freshman year, the campaign addressed that the first semester of college (an average of 15 weeks) is the most vulnerable time for sexual assault to occur.
Building on their longstanding collaboration to address campus assault, Futures and Avon Foundation aim to facilitate ongoing conversation. “For more than a decade the Avon Foundation has funded efforts to address the epidemic of violence against women, and, specifically through this grant, the prevention and reduction of assault on campus,” says Christine Jaworsky, program director at Avon Foundation for Women. “Everyone deserves a life free from violence, and one of Avon’s goals is to empower both men and women to recognize the signs of abuse and provide the tools to help them speak out and safely intervene.”
“We need to give people next steps, and we need to make them do-able,” Corcoran adds. The Toolkit offers anyone steps on empowering themselves to be proactive against sexual assault: Parents can engage their children in conversations about assault; alumni can serve as mentors; and faculty can learn to spot the warning signs of violence. The guide also gives students a checklist to assess their school – for example, whether they received information on sexual violence policies during orientation.
“The most important part of the Toolkit is that it speaks to a variety of different audiences,” says Jackie Cruz, a graduate student and activist in the campus assault movement who served as an advisor for the Toolkit. “The issue of sexual assault on college campuses is such a big one, and it affects so many different people. It’s hard to think, ‘how do I make a dent and affect change,’ but the Toolkit really provides actionable steps.“