Are you one of the people making excuses for sexual assault? Yes, unwanted groping is sexual assault. You’re right, it’s not “rape,” but it is sexual assault. There is no excuse for sexual assault. Literally, there is no excuse. Ever.
I wish we were a nation that adopted the phrase “boys will be held accountable for their actions just like girls” instead of justifying crimes with the age-old excuse that “boys will be boys,” or dismissing casual talk about serious offenses as merely “locker room banter.” When that day comes, the Harnisch Foundation will know that we had a part in making it happen.
We’ve been relentless in pushing the conversation about sexual assault to the forefront ever since the 2012 premiere of The Invisible War, a documentary that brought the criminal mishandling of sexual assault in the U.S. military to the public’s attention. When the same producer/director team announced The Hunting Ground -— a follow-up documentary to focus on campus sexual assault — I signed on as an Executive Producer. And at every single screening of that Oscar-nominated documentary (you did see Lady Gaga’s Oscar performance of "Til It Happens To You" from the film, right?), women representing a wide span of ages, colors, and religions had the opportunity to tell their stories.
We believe that film is a powerful form of storytelling that’s changing (and opening) the cultural dialogue around these issues. The Stanford rape case victim’s statement went viral and her rapist, Brock Turner, became a pariah. And after years of stories whispered among those who knew, Bill Cosby’s powerful stardom could no longer shut down his victims. One by one, those women came forward with their accounts.
And while the 2016 presidential election has brought ugly realities to the spotlight, it has also allowed women to speak their truths. Countless women have been triggered by Donald Trump’s “locker room talk,” where he objectified females in ugly terms and laughed about sexual assault techniques. This sparked outcry on social media, and there was a flurry of responses to author Kelly Oxford’s request to “Tweet your first assault” with the #NotOkay hashtag. I was one of the first to respond to this call, and there were other stories, too, including this one.
One way that we at theHF are giving visibility to the institutional failures that result in sexual assault going unpunished — and its frequency continuing unabated — is by investing in women-led films that are elevating these issues and shaping a new narrative. Here are three films that we’ve supported. These stories are making a measurable difference in the world, and you can watch them today, right now, on Netflix.
The Hunting Ground
Oscar-nominated Producer/Director team Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick followed their acclaimed The Invisible War with this shocking exposé of rape crimes on U.S. campuses. The institutional cover-ups will make you wince as you see the victims and their families suffer indignity after indignity. You’ll meet some of the most heroic young women alive today — including those who discovered a new way to achieve justice in spite of the disgraceful harassment, pushback, and rejection they faced from the people who should have been their champions and protectors. Watch on Netflix here.
Audrie & Daisy
The Hunting Ground happened because after seeing The Invisible War, women understood that the same crimes and the same institutional cover-ups happen on college campuses. So then what comes after a movie about college sexual assault? Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk tell the stories of two teenage girls. In separate incidents, each was sexually assaulted while unconscious by boys they thought were their friends. The crimes were posted online, and each girl was harassed relentlessly. Each of them attempted suicide. Only one survives. Audrie & Daisy explores high school assault in the age of social media from the perspective of the girls. Watch now.
Hot Girls Wanted
I don’t know how many times one can use the word “shocking” to describe these exposés, but OMG, directors Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus film is not for the squeamish – nor is their first film, Sexy Baby. If you don’t know anything about the so-called amateur porn genre, you will see exactly how the pros lure girls just turning 18 to hop on a plane in hopes of becoming a “star.” I’ve seen it at least five times (including the Sundance 2015 premiere), and I’m still shocked every time. (There’s that word again.) You can see it on Netflix. Watch the full film here, if you can stomach it.