Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 19th 2015 Contents 10| WOW MAGAZINE
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt April 19, 2015
AS THE trinidad+tobago film festival and the US Embassy continue their series
of community film screenings looking at human rights, the spotlight turns to
the complex issue of domestic violence, with the screening of Private Violence,
at the Laventille Community Complex, at 4:00 p.m. today. The film series is
sponsored by the US Embassy.
Developed as a documentary film and public advocacy vehicle that engages au-
diences in debates, prevention and other public action strategies, Private Vio-
lence raises a troubling fact that for a number of women, the most dangerous
place to be is their own home. Through a birds-eye view of some of these
women's lives, we bear witness to the reality of intimate, behind-the-scenes
partner violence, and all the complexities involved. To say nothing of the culpa-
bility of agencies such as the police, the courts and the social system, which so
often fail to protect them.
Private Violence narrates the story of survivors. One is Kit Gruelle, a domestic
violence victim turned advocate who seeks justice for other violence survivors.
Then there is Deanna Walters, whose estranged husband Robbie kidnapped her
and her two-year-old daughter, taking them across State lines, removing
Deanna from her support network so that he could abuse her unimpeded. With
no one to stop him, he beat her for four days in the cab of his truck. He was
never arrested for it.
This is an important film, because of the issues it raises and the questions it
asks and answers, but it's not sugar-coated. We are given privy to a world that
happens mainly behind closed doors, shrouded in shame and secrecy. Private Vi-
olence in effect opens the door and invites us to take a look. The subtext per-
haps being: be moved enough to empathise, organise and take action.
As the documentary highlights, domestic violence is a deeply complex issue.
Women often face what seems like insurmountable odds. Once-loving partners
can turn unexpectedly, physically violent for little or no reason, but may have
been eroding confidence little by little through criticism and mental and emo-
tional torture; slowly but surely cutting women off from their friends, family and
other support systems.
Then there is the fact that domestic violence is often seen as a problem that
the abused person needs to solve. Within a belief system that blames women
in abusive relationships for having chosen poorly, these women face an entire
social, cultural and sometimes legal system that holds the victim not the perpe-
trator to account.
Further complicating matters is the fact that some women still love their
abuser, or love his unrealized self. While those of us who haven't experienced
this type of terror may find this hard to comprehend, there is a point in the film
when Gruelle poignantly illustrates the complications of love in an abusive rela-
tionship. Holding a photo of her ex with their child, and explaining that it was
taken during "their last good stretch together", she reminisces about how after
he died, she stood by his coffin staring at his hands, and remembering how they
had beat her bloody, but had also taught her how to garden.
Which brings us to the elephant in the room. The question always hovering
overhead, laden with judgment and exasperation: "Why don't they just leave?"
What we learn is that one of the effects of constant physical and psychological
violence is that the abused are often paralyzed, to the point where they can't
think straight, can't act, can't run, can't fight. And even when they do -- they
may become part of the statistics --- domestic violence-related murders that
happen after the woman leaves.
Private Violence asks a different set of questions that perhaps have the poten-
tial to help us change perspective and, in the long term, change our society:
"Why does he abuse?" "Why do we turn away?" and "How do we begin to build
a future without domestic violence?"
Private Violence (Cynthia Hill/2014/81'),
Sunday 19 April, 4:00pm,
Laventille Community Complex
There will be a community discussion after the
film led by:
•Hearts and Minds, Trinidad and Tobago Police
• Diana Mahabir-Wyatt, Chair of the Coalition
Against Domestic Violence
• Sherna Alexander, the Organisation for
Abused and Battered Individuals (OABI),
• Nicole Hendrickson and Steve Cupid Theodore
• Luke Finnette, CAISO: Trinidad & Tobago's
Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual
• Cherylann Gajadhar - author of The Girl in The
Cupboard\ and child abuse survivor
• Working Women for Social Progress
Admission to this screenings is free.
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