Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Documentary on domestic violence raises need for prevention
It was a dream that felt like a reminder. I awoke feeling I had made a mistake. Have you ever had that feeling?
I was studying for a test at the University of Missouri. As I went through my notes, I recognized an odd piece of paper with words scribbled in red ink. “They need $15, 000,” the top of the note read.
What is that, I thought as I placed the note in a nearby book. I continued my studies. The clock was ticking. My exam was set to begin in 35 minutes.
The dream fast forwarded to two years later. I was sitting at my desk at WXLN Radio in Louisville, Kentucky. I was placing books on a bookcase in my office when a note fell out from a book. “They need $15, 000,” I began to read. The rest woke me from my dream. “by tomorrow or they will kill me.”
It felt real. Had I failed to read a note that was slipped in between my class notes? Was a life taken due to my oversight? No, that couldn’t be, I thought after tussling in my bed way past the time I normally rise to begin my morning workout.
Was a life taken because I was too busy to read the note? Have messages been sent that others overlooked because they were too busy preparing for a test? My mind shifted to an email I received from Cynthia Hill, a Durham based documentary filmmaker. Hill and Kit Gruelle are working on a documentary film about domestic violence. They have an indiegogo campaign with the goal of raising $15,000 to complete the film.
The film Private Violence hopes to raise awareness regarding the need for domestic violence prevention programs. They want to stop the violence before it starts. Reports of recent domestic violence homicides in Wake County brings to the forefront an issue that demands attention.
“I was inspired to do a film because I've worked in the battered women's movement in North Carolina for 28 years and I grew tired of hearing the same, recycled, victim-blaming questions asked over and over again,” Gruelle says. “We are losing two women a week in North Carolina to domestic violence and our social/legal response/reaction is not dealing with it.”
Gruelle and Hill have been working on the film for five years. Gloria Steinem is one of the executive producers.
“We have had a very hard time getting people to fund the film,” Gruelle says. “Mostly, it's because of the intense stereotyping that has allowed the issue to be narrowly-defined, so people think they can just brush it aside, but it truly affects everyone, directly or indirectly.”
The film addresses problems with North Carolina’s criminal justice system. An example is a charge commonly used in domestic violence prosecutions called Misdemeanor Assault with a Deadly Weapon. This charge means that a woman can be shot or stabbed and, unless it involves a life-threatening injury, it will, more likely than not, be charged as a misdemeanor.
“But it is a felony to steal a bale of pine straw,” Gruelle says.
Gruelle says domestic violence is the giant, hidden social undertow that goes unmentioned or renamed. “We have danced around this issue for decades,” she continued. “We have marched at vigils; we have attended funerals; we have released balloons; we have reacted to this crime, but Cynthia and I want to try to address the need for prevention. That's why Gloria Steinem got behind the film.”
My dream felt like a memory. “They need $15,000 by tomorrow, or they will kill me.”
Every year, Monica Daye, founder of Stand Up/Speak Out, holds a vigil to remember those killed as a result of domestic violence. She calls me to read the names. For the past five years, I have stood in the dark, surrounded by candles, while reading name after name. I give their ages and weapon used.
In some cases, I read the relationship with the murderer – husband, boyfriend, father, step-father, mother’s boyfriend. It’s the same each year. The list is a reflection of the general population. Each race. All economic groups. A broad range of ages.
Is the dream is a memory of those who cry from the grave? “We needed you by tomorrow,” they scream from the tomb. “You were too busy to read the rest of the note.”
They need money to get the message out. The life of a woman depends on each of us.
Is it a dream, or a memory? Does it matter?