Issue Of Campus Assault Deserves More Attention Than Controversy About A Film

"Good Morning America" examines CNN's decision to air "The Hunting Ground," a documentary about college campus rape, on Sunday after Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston notified CNN that he is prepared to sue if the network aired the film.

On Sunday, CNN showed "The Hunting Ground," a documentary about campus sexual assault that was released in April. The film presents the stories of men and women who discuss their experiences and how they were treated afterward by campus administrators and their schools' judicial processes.

One of those voices belongs to Erica Kinsman, who alleged that quarterback Jameis Winston, now playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, raped her while he was a freshman at Florida State University. No charges were ever filed against Winston, and he was found not to have violated the school's code of conduct.

Last week, Winston's attorneys sent a letter to CNN, threatening to sue the network if it aired the film.

It was a good strategy. From what I saw, the letter became the focus of nearly every story about the film. Winston's objections to the film were laid out at every telling, and he seemed largely insulated from the effect, given his five-touchdown performance Sunday.

The word "controversial" became almost synonymous with the film after some Harvard Law professors took issue with it, but what is truly controversial is letting alleged survivors tell their stories without the filter of lawyers and campus administrators. Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, two women who have begun to revolutionize the way colleges look at assault by filing Title IX complaints with the U.S. Department of Education, are a much larger part of the film.

CNN invited college presidents whose schools were a focus of the film to talk about the issue, but all declined except University of Alaska Fairbanks interim chancellor Mike Powers. His interview was a powerful reminder of what an engaged administrator can do.

Victims too often receive too little help from law enforcement, as this New York Times investigation details by looking at how the Tallahassee Police Department responded to Kinsman's claims. That said, it is just as important that false allegations (which are no higher for rape than other crimes at an estimated 8 percent) are ferreted out and those perpetrators prosecuted.

"The Hunting Ground" raises an uncomfortable subject. While Harvard Law professors were taking issue with the film, a specifically worded poll of women on campus found 16 percent of women reported they had experienced "sexual penetration or attempted penetration without consent" while they were students. The school is also facing an investigation from the Department of Education.

What's the better strategy for the Crimson students, having their highest minds tilting at the messenger or addressing the issues the film raises? You can quibble with the stats in the film or pontificate about whether the questions on a survey are appropriate, but it's important to see the forest for the trees here. We have such a hard time just listening to the women tell their stories, just letting them talk without shouting them down.

It's a choice. Cover the controversy or cover the issue. Kinsman is just a small part of "The Hunting Ground," and whatever you think of her individual story, there is a larger one just behind it.

Other things on my mind this week:

Not gambling? The New York Times looks at whether betting on fantasy sports can lead to the same problems that gambling addicts face. Fantasy sites are trying to rebrand their business as a game of skill. Rebranding in sports can be successful; look no further than the secondary ticket market.

I would not recommend listening to Adele's "Hello" near a telephone, lest the desire to call your ex becomes overwhelming.

Jerry Jones had a sit-down with Greg Hardy after the Dallas Cowboys defensive end was late to a meeting. Jones says Hardy gets it now and "agreed to really work." Does anyone see this ending well? Anyone? Bueller?

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