Lady Gaga’s Oscar Nomination Propels Campus Rape Awareness

This article by The Hunting Ground filmmakers, Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick, was published by The Huffington Post on January 15, 2016:

We are thrilled that “Til It Happens To You,” The Hunting Ground‘s original song, has become the fifth song from a documentary ever to receive an Academy Award nomination.

We are grateful to Lady Gaga and Diane Warren for their inspiring and moving contribution to the film. Viewed more than 24 million times online, the song’s video debut sparked a 34 percent increase in calls to the National Sexual Assault Hotline and has become an anthem for survivors of sexual assault around the world. This recognition is about more than awards; it’s about the long overdue change it will help bring.

So, too, is The Hunting Ground.

This past year marked a major turning point in the fight against campus sexual assault. Since The Hunting Ground premiered at Sundance last January, we’ve challenged powerful institutions that have covered up the problem on their campuses for decades. Together with our partner organizations and student activists, we have started a national conversation about the culture of campus sexual assault in America and how to stop it.

Almost a million people watched the film on CNN, while more than four million people have watched The Hunting Ground online. We’ve taken our message to diverse and influential audiences to spark change — from Washington, D.C. to ESPN Headquarters and the most powerful corporate executives in the country. This outreach, along with the work of our partners, including the White House’s It’s On Us campaign with Generation Progress, has helped foster a rising tide of action to prevent sexual assault on college campuses nationwide. In 2016, Delta Airlines will continue to show It’s On Us PSAs on all flights and 6,000 radio stations across the country will play PSAs featuring “Til it Happens to You.” The Hunting Ground has also hosted events with governors and state legislatures, the Department of Education, Department of Justice and the Office of Violence Against Women.

Policymakers are listening. In 2015, dozens of state legislatures introduced bills tackling campus sexual assault. This included “Enough is Enough,” a bill in New York that was signed into law last July following The Hunting Ground screenings to the New York State legislature. As Governor Cuomo said during his State of the State Address on Wednesday: “We were right when we passed the most aggressive law stopping sexual violence on college campuses in the nation.”

At the federal level, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill introduced the Campus Accountability and Safety Act with broad, bipartisan support.

Academia is listening. There have been nearly 1,000 screenings on U.S. colleges. More than 50 schools have conducted sexual assault climate surveys, a critical first step for administrators to understand to prevent harmful trends assault on their campus, and hundreds institutions have begun reforming their policies. And as of this month, there are 197 open investigations for colleges in possible violations of the federal Title IX law.

Naturally, change does not come easy. We have been met with naysayers, including those who go so far as to attack the scientifically established statistics and the documented accounts of survivors in our film. Not surprisingly, these attacks are coming from schools whose wrongdoings the film exposed, like Florida State University and Harvard Law School, which have decided to attack the messenger rather than the problem on their campuses. Whether they want to hear it or not, the fact is that if we don’t make changes, 1-in-5 women will continue to be sexually assaulted while in college, as confirmed by multiple studies.

As filmmakers, we strive to focus on urgent, complex topics that will generate awareness and discussion. Our 2012 documentary, The Invisible War, lifted the curtain on the crisis of sexual assault in our military, spurring Congressional hearings and dozens of successful reforms. The Hunting Ground, too, has shone a light on some uncomfortable truths. And in challenging the status quo, we have exposed those powerful institutions that are the most afraid of change.

This awards season also marks a new year, and with it an opportunity to bring the conversation around sexual violence to new audiences on campuses, in the media and in the halls of Congress. We will continue to do just that in 2016, standing with and for the survivors in The Hunting Ground – including Kamilah, Erica, Annie, Andrea, Rachel and Sofie – and all those whose voices have yet to be heard. The safety of millions of young women and men depends on it.