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You should be mad about “The Hunting Ground”

| Thursday, April 16, 2015

“‘The Hunting Ground’ … an unblinking look at sexual assaults on campus.” — New York Times

On April 17th, you have a choice.

You can walk across the Notre Dame campus to DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, cough up $4 and watch the documentary “The Hunting Ground.”


You can stay in your room for a Friday night, chip in $4 for a couple cases of Natty Light, play two hours of beer pong with your friends and get wasted.

Pick one.

“The Hunting Ground” takes direct aim at the integrity of college institutions, including Notre Dame, for not effectively dealing with the nationwide problem of campus sexual assault.

It blames (pick your favorite elite college) for an unwillingness to prosecute cases of campus sexual assault, mainly due to a perceived desire to protect the university brand. It portrays colleges as faceless monoliths mostly interested in the success of their respective athletic programs.

It also makes no mention of federal privacy laws or offers any rebuttal from college administrators.

Its fairness can certainly be debated. Its fortitude, however, cannot.

Fueled by the testimony of female victims and the inspiration of their actions, “The Hunting Ground” stirs the pot. It angers the audience. It demands a call to action — a call to stop campus sexual assault.

As a father preparing to send three children to college during the next few years, “The Hunting Ground” makes me extremely angry.

Angry at the rape culture that infests college campuses. Angry at the collective male student indifference towards protecting female students. Angry at the “The Hunting Ground’s” willingness, and our willingness, to allow the most obvious villains in this sad narrative off the hook: Drunk men.

The vast majority of campus sexual assaults are acquaintance rape. The vast majority of those acquaintance rapes involve alcohol. The vast majority of us do nothing to prevent it. We accept our alcohol-soaked campus culture as the norm.

While the institutional issues raised in “The Hunting Ground” are troublesome to say the least, no issue addressed in the film is more accessible for students to change than this.

If you want to help prevent campus sexual assault, here’s an idea.

Notre Dame men, stop getting drunk and stop getting others drunk. Stop accepting a culture of alcohol abuse.

As students, you have no control over post-sexual assault investigations, hearings, convictions or expulsions. However, you do have the power to prevent future sexual assaults by taking ownership of the alcoholic culture on this campus and changing it.

But how?

Last fall, the White House launched the “It’s On Us” campaign, designed to raise awareness of campus sexual assault. You’ve probably seen the “It’s On Us” public service announcements. Dozens of universities have produced cloned versions of the commercial that essentially say: “Everyone is responsible to help stop sexual assault.”

The NCAA’s video features student-athletes reading this script:

It’s on us to stop sexual assault. In any way we can. To get a friend home safe. To never blame the victim. It’s on us. To stand up. To make our community safe for all. It’s on us. To look out for each other at parties. It’s on us. To be more than just a bystander. To step up and say something. It’s on us. All of us. To stop sexual assault.”

I applaud the effort to raise awareness.

However, a PSA featuring designated drivers reciting catchphrases isn’t going to change an alcoholic culture of peer pressure, which leads to alcohol abuse, which leads to sexual assault.

Unfortunately, “It’s On Us” passively preaches to a sober choir of few and makes us feel like we’re doing something positive.

Feed The World. Just Say No. It’s On Us.

Instead of taking pledges, it’s time to start calling out the abusers whose behavior leads to sexual assault. Reverse the peer pressure. Read the new script.

“Why is it on us to drive you from bar to bar?”

“Why is it on us to wait for you to finish that last drink? Again. And Again. And Again. Why is it on us? To prevent you from raping my friend.”

“I don’t care about your keg. I don’t want your jello shot. You’re a drunk.”

We, as a campus, permit an alcoholic culture. We celebrate it Saturdays every fall. To keep the peace, we arrest the few belligerent drunks and a couple of the less fortunate fake ID holders. But essentially, thousands of intoxicated fans on any given football Saturday party alongside students.

In fact, for most of them and most of our students, drinking is a sport. It’s a competition. Who can drink the most without puking? Who can “rally” when they’re hungover? Who can win beer pong tonight?

Until we decide that we’re sick of coddling our drunk campus, we are allowing a fertile ground for sexual assaults to be committed. We are enablers of “The Hunting Ground.”

However you, the students, can change the culture. Here’s a radical how.

Use social media. Associate campus drinking with sexual assault. Attack the companies that peddle alcohol to a young demographic (which would be just about all of them). If the marketing team at Absolut Vodka wants to sell its product by associating vodka with sexual innuendo, then why not associate vodka with sexual assault?

Tweet photos of empty vodka containers in your dorm Saturday night. #AbsolutPromotesSexualAssault. That might get you a few retweets.

Attack the companies that associate happiness with alcohol. If Anheuser-Busch wants to take credit for all the good beer times in our lives in their ad campaigns, how about taking responsibility for the bad ones too?


Whoa. That’s out of line.

Really? That happens.

Force the massive producers of alcohol to take more responsibility for the actions of their young consumers … something more than adding the tiny tagline “Drink Responsibly.”

Think it can’t happen? Ask Philip Morris.

And how about the young consumers taking responsibility? Here’s a very simple pledge for Notre Dame students. Pick one Friday each semester … and don’t drink.

One day. One weekend. Don’t drink.

Pick a color. Make a t-shirt. STOP SEXUAL ASSAULT. DON’T DRINK TODAY.

Wear it on a Friday. Start there.

Can we, as a campus, get through one Friday night without alcohol in the name of preventing campus sexual assaults?

If not, we have a serious problem.


Ted Mandell has taught film and video production at Notre Dame for the past 27 years, specializing in documentary production. He can be contacted at tmandell@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • Anon

    You’re also letting sexual predators off the hook by claiming that drunkenness makes one incapable of making decisions. This argument lends credance to the false notion that if you’re drunk, you cant possibly be held accountable for your actions, rape or no. Thats ridiculous.

    Also ridiculous, as a conclusion of the stupid premise: by extension, all people who drink are rapists, or possible/probable rapists.

    You can have fun, even with ethanol, and not sexually assault people. Billions do it. Creating a culture of respect for women and their decisions seems like a much more effective and less patronizing plan of attack.

  • Froggy1

    You are crazy man. I will be drinking natty’s and playing beer pong tonight. Maybe you are one of those guys who assaults people when you drink, but for most of us healthy people, we don’t have a propensity to assault someone no matter how drunk we are.

    This is a pretty funny article though. “Is that your third beer?!?!? RAPIST!!!!”

    • Anon

      That’s the problem. You’re are viewing being drunk as an acceptable state of being when it shouldn’t. The alcohol culture in this country is so messed up. Drink to socialize, not to get drunk and to be a burden to sober and tipsy people.

  • Robert Riversong

    The Hunting Ground “mockumentary” is pure polemic, intended to pour fuel on the fire of the campus sexual assault debate. It is entirely biased, ignores the other side of the story, such as the increasing number of men falsely accused and expelled or even jailed before being vindicated, and who suffer life-changing repercussions.

    The “1-in-5” myth has been thoroughly debunked. The 2014 DOJ study showed that campus sexual assault is rare, happens at lower rates than for non-students of the same age, and that most co-eds don’t report to police because they don’t consider the event serious enough.

    The DOE’s mandates require colleges to inform an alleged sexual assault victim that she has the right NOT to report to the police, and most don’t because their claims would come under scrutiny that would expose them as unfounded.

    Research shows rates of false rape allegations as high as 50%, particularly on campus. And an insurance study shows that colleges find the accused responsible in 45% of the cases and more than 80% of the time exact the most severe sanctions: suspension or expulsion.

    In other words, nothing claimed in this film is true. It is meant to inflame and enrage rather than inform.

    • Nathan

      Do you have any sources on the research regarding false rape allegations? That seems very high is all.


    This whole thing presupposes an acceptance of the ‘campus rape culture’ myth.

    Maybe you should have a reporter from ‘Rolling Stone’ there to report the story.

  • Larry Didier

    Totally amazing how some people continue to ignore the terrible social problems associated with the abuse of alcohol. No – not all heavy drinkers assault others – but drinking alcohol greatly increases the likelihood. Yes, most drinkers – and indeed, nearly all ‘moderate’ drinkers (1 – 2 drinks per occasion) will not physically or sexually assault people. But those who do drink alcohol in amounts exceeding those above greatly increase the risks for themselves and for others. Eliminate over-use of alcohol and most of these problems will decrease in number dramatically. Intoxication always carries risk, whether it’s alcohol, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy or meth. Stop getting ‘high’ and you won’t find yourself regretting what you may have done the evening before – if you remember it at all. And I’m not suggesting there are absolutes – many drink too much – or get high – and don’t create a problem for themselves or others – initially, or maybe even the first few times. But don’t take hances with your life or weel-being, or that of those around you , , , the stakes are too high.