Spring 2015 Issue

The Hunting Ground

W&M first to preview film on college sexual assault crisis

By Jim Ducibella

William & Mary Global Film Festival Director Timothy Barnard went to the Sundance Film Festival in January looking primarily for foreign movies that would support the festival’s 2015 theme of “Film and Renewal.”

In the end, an American-made documentary on campus sexual assaults — “The Hunting Ground” — found him, and ultimately led to W&M becoming the first university in the nation to offer a preview of the film as part of the festival held in February. The film offered a sobering look at the issue of campus sexual violence — and the handling of cases by universities, police and prosecutors — through the personal stories of survivors at several institutions across the country.

The university’s Task Force on Preventing Sexual Assault and Harassment, formed in September 2014, together with the Student Assembly, provided funds to bring the film’s main protagonists, Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, to campus to present the film and meet with students.

The film narrates the experience of the two women, who were raped while students at the University of North Carolina and ultimately joined together to create End Rape on Campus (EROC), a national organization that travels the country consulting with college victims of sexual assault. Following a question-and-answer session with the audience on Sunday, Clark and Pino were presented with the GFF’s Rising Young Talent Award. Though unable to attend, director Kirby Dick and producer Amy Ziering were awarded the festival’s Global Film Can Award.

Several administrators attended the screenings, including President Taylor Reveley; Provost Michael R. Halleran; W&M Police Chief Deb Cheesebro; Kiersten Boyce, Title IX coordinator at the university; and Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler ’88, Ph.D. ’06, who is chair of W&M’s Task Force.
“Anything that elevates this issue to community-wide attention will help us do our work better,” Ambler said. “What we want is for members of the W&M community — faculty, staff and students — to be engaged, to be part of the solution and to be knowledgeable about what sexual assault looks like on a college campus.”