The Hunting Ground documentary looks at sexual assaults on US university campuses.

The Hunting Ground documentary looks at sexual assaults on US university campuses.

A confronting and emotional truth

Incidents of sexual assaults on university campuses can only be stopped by addressing underlying and fundamental norms, ALYSSA SHAW, BComm '11, and LINNEA BURDON-SMITH write. Trigger warning: sexual assault.

Earlier this year, ANU screened The Hunting Ground, a documentary about the experiences of women at US universities who have experienced sexual assault.

The reaction from the audience says a lot about how our community perceives sexual assault.

Undoubtedly a confronting and emotional film, The Hunting Ground includes interviews with survivors of rape not only about the incident itself but about the subsequent inability or refusal of the universities to respond to such an incident. It can leave one feeling despondent and angry.

However, watching the film with the largely female ANU audience also had uplifting and hopeful moments, such as the audience responding to comments that clearly showed a false understanding of what rape constitutes (i.e. lack of consent), victim blaming and the protecting of perpetrators of rape.

The feedback since the screening has largely centred on resolve. It is clear that an important and necessary conversation has begun in the ANU community.

However, we need more than words to solve such a systemic issue.

The university environment has unique challenges when it comes to addressing sexual assault and harassment.

Some of the issues depicted in The Hunting Ground, such as fraternity culture or the protection of sports stars that perpetrate these actions, are not fundamental issues in Australia.

However, The Hunting Ground discusses many issues that are relevant, such as the likelihood of sexual assault being perpetrated by someone you know.

In the context of the university, this can lead to students who have survived sexual assault being in the same on-campus residence, or the same program of study and class, as the perpetrator who sexually assaulted them.