‘The Hunting Ground’ hits close to home during Portland screening

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The Regal Cinemas Fox Tower theater in Portland screened The Hunting Ground Friday, and invited University of Oregon staff and students to answer questions regarding sexual assault following the film.

The Hunting Ground is a documentary about sexual assault on college campuses in the United States, such as Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The film followed the stories of survivors of sexual assault and the challenges they faced following the assaults.

Written and directed by Academy Award-nominated Kirby Dick, the documentary referenced the alleged sexual assault by former UO basketball players last year. The survivor of the alleged incident sued the UO, which then filed a countersuit that was later withdrawn.

The film briefly showed news clips of students protesting outside of Johnson Hall last spring and criticized former President Michael Gottfredson for allowing two of the accused basketball players to play in a tournament before they were expelled.

On the same day as the screening, interim President Scott Coltrane sent an email explaining the university’s plan to fight sexual assault.

Following the screening there was a short Q&A with UO staff. Jennifer Morlok, senior staff therapist and case manager at the counseling center, began the talk.

“I’m a trained therapist and that got me,” Morlok said of the film. Morlok also thanked the audience for attending the screening.

“Hearing is a part of advocacy, so coming, paying for the ticket, showing up – that’s part of advocacy,” Morlok said.

One woman from the audience asked, “Why don’t more of the victims go to the police beyond the campus and try to get help beyond the walls of the campus?”

Morlok’s response: “Why didn’t you scream louder? Why were you there alone?” These were the types of questions survivors would be asked by police, and Morlok said it can be tough to go to those interviews.

Many audience members spoke, including a woman whose daughter went to Brown University and experienced the same treatment by the university as those in the movie did following their assaults. The woman said that universities try to make themselves seem more accommodating than the police.

“So the colleges go and they tell you, ‘Look we’ll treat you kinder, we’ll treat you with more respect if you go through our courts,’ And then they fuck you over,” the woman said. “Big time.”

Dana Rognlie, a GTF in the philosophy department, and undergraduate student Ben Ogawa spoke to the audience about how to help survivors through advocacy and change.

“It’s advocating and also sticking up for people who are actively supporting the network of allies,” Ogawa said.

Rognlie proposed to make part of a college education about sexual assault, recalling an instance in which she heard a group of male students telling another to “do what you need to do to get it in.”

“Part of creating a safer campus environment, because, as you saw, the statistics are such that some people don’t even realize that what they’re doing is rape,” Rognlie said. “To make education actually accessible for everyone, part of the education needs to be on that topic because it’s different from other crimes.”

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Francesca Fontana

Francesca Fontana

Francesca is the associate news editor for community news.
She worked as The Register-Guard's 2015 Snowden Intern, and studies journalism and economics.