By Dan Friedman at New York Daily News
WASHINGTON — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is teaming up with the makers of a new documentary to help pass her bill combating sex attacks on college campuses.
The New York Democrat and a bipartisan group of 11 other senators are rolling out legislation to coincide with the release of “The Hunting Ground,” which opens around the country later this month.
A day before the movie’s premiere in New York and Los Angeles, Gillibrand, who appears in the film, took in a Washington screening. The director and producer attended a press conference last week where the senators outlined their bill.
The legislation, along with a companion House measure co-sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), would force universities to adopt standard practices for weighing sexual charges and to survey students on the prevalence of assault.
The movie’s director, Kirby Dick, and producer Amy Ziering, also made a documentary, “The Invisible War,” about sexual assault in the military. Gillibrand credits that film with boosting her ultimately unsuccessful effort to force the military to shift responsibility for prosecuting sexual assault out of the normal chain of command.
Gillibrand and others backing the campus sex assault bill, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are hoping to use reaction to the film to push universities to step up action against campus assault.
The lawmakers also stand to gain politically by hitching their flags to a popular issue.
The film has earned positive reviews but also has been slammed for its use of disputed statistics on the prevalence of college assaults and for condemning colleges across the board for failing to help victims.
Other critics say the lawmakers, Gillibrand in particular, are overlooking due process for men accused of sexual assault.
“Some members are taking a one-sided approach,” said Joseph Cohn of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which often defends accused students. Cohn said both accusers and accused suffer from bad university processes for handling assault allegations.
Gillibrand rejects such criticism.
“Right now, the process that is going on at college campuses serves no one,” she said. “It doesn’t serve the survivor. It doesn’t serve the accused.”