Sexual violence, from child sexual abuse to domestic violence, and sex trafficking is the topic covered in the “Sands of Silence” documentary film. A social reality theme, which with its shocking truths has changed the course of the world.
The interview with the director and producer of this impressive screen player enlighten us with the truth of the Sexual Abuse and its consequences.
What are the consequences when a woman hides the fact of being a victim of sexual violence?
If the wound is not healed through therapy, or family and friends support, victims suffer innumerable consequences and many become vulnerable to sexual predators.
For a few, the psychological pain is so strong that the only way they can deal with it is by recreating what happened to them in another person. Some become perpetrators themselves. But the majority of victims will carry their wound under their skin for many years, without ever speaking about it. The pain will surface again and again in their interpersonal relationships. They feel prisoners of their past.
Some victims have flash backs, nightmares, night sweats. Some tremble before making love, even if their partner loves and respects them. Others lose their self-respect having destructive relationships, finding partners that victimize them recreating what happened to them.
A victim of prolonged child sexual abuse, leading an apparently regular life, told me how, decades later, she feels the need to go out at night and find men in the street to sleep with and get paid for it. “Is my revenge, my way of getting back to men for what was done to me.”
Statistics show that a large part of women practicing prostitution have suffered sexual abuse or have been victims of rape.
In the United States, a huge number of young runaway teenagers that leave their homes because of sexual or domestic violence, end up in the streets and become easy prey to traffickers that exploit them in forced prostitution.
How can we encourage children to disclose they are being/have been sexually abused?
We need to bring up the issue of self-respect from an early age starting at their 4-years-old speaking in terms they can understand, like, “Your body is yours and when someone touches you or kisses you and it feels weird, say no, leave, and come to mamma or papa and tell us.”
Then, when they grow up a bit and turn 10, you can introduce the concept of how much it will hurt all your life when an adult touches you in your private parts, or when he or she kisses you and you feel bad about it. The best way is to bring up the subjects of respect for the body and sexual abuse around the dining room table. We need to discuss these issues openly so they stop being taboo.
Can a married woman be a victim of sexual violence by her husband?
Yes, it is called ‘Rape within the marriage.’ It is a subject still taboo. Very little known or acknowledged, but we need to start bringing it to the light. Men are not entitled to have sexual relationships with their wife or intimate partner if the woman does not consent. Women’s body belongs to them, not to their husbands. A woman is not an object acquired in marriage or a commodity. She is not obliged to have sex at the pleasure and mercy of her husband.
Even in intimate partner relationships, women have a right to say no, to put limits. This is what causes New York State Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, to resign this week. He had just launched a civil rights investigation on disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s company. He was also a great advocate for the #MeToo movement. However, four women have accused Schneider of violence in their intimate partner relationships (he is not presently married) in The New Yorker magazine this week.
Talking about sex-trafficked I wonder, are out there women infected by sexual diseases?
Women who are trafficked and forced into prostitution are considered a commodity they are forced to accept clients that don’t want to use condoms. This makes them vulnerable to all kinds of STDs (Sexually transmitted diseases), including AIDS.
In Nepal, I’ve interviewed numerous young girls who were HIV positive or had aids. One of them, Shanti Lama, is now an empowered woman who founded the organization Shanti Foundations in Kathmandu for HIV positive women, many of them victims of trafficking, but also, married women who had contracted AIDS after their husbands migrated to India and visited brothels.
Most of the young trafficked Nepali women that are rescued from brothels in India and brought back to their country suffer also from tuberculosis due to slave work paired with the lack of proper nutrition, and the terrible living conditions they had to endure.
Other women suffer physical torture, as is the case of Sands of Silence’ protagonist Virginia Isaias who was kidnapped in Mexico while breastfeeding her six-months-old baby, tortured and forced into prostitution.
You have been working for the Sands of Silence documentary many years before the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. How difficult was 10 years ago to find funding for films on sexual violence?
The year 2008, when we started to make this film, also saw a financial crisis in the United States that stripped both government and non-government film funding foundations of much-needed funds for the production of documentary films.
It was particularly difficult to find funding for Sands of Silence because the topic we were addressing was not yet understood. Our film addresses the full spectrum of sexual violence, from child sexual abuse to sex trafficking through the stories of several survivors, including my own story.
Traditional film funders did not understand how we dared to compare stories of sexual misconduct or child sexual abuse with stories of people subject to forced prostitution which often involve torture. They wanted us to make either a film about child sexual abuse or a film about sex-trafficking.
We were premature our film was, in fact, a precursor of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Our film shows that all aspects of sexual violence are interconnected no matter the degree.
Silence and stigma are the great common denominators. And the vulnerability that child sexual abuse and rape create, makes victims more prone to being trafficked.
Victims of sexual misconduct often prefer to ignore what happened to them, but in doing so, we normalize a patriarchal society where men feel entitled to use women’s bodies as their please. We normalize the culture of sexual violence. As was my case. I never disclosed what happened to me as a teenager. It took me decades to break my own silence.
Not every victim needs to speak up in a public way. But it is important to start breaking the silence with yourself, facing your own ghosts, and calling the offense you suffered by its name.
Only by saying No to small acts of violence, called micro aggressions, we can start changing the sexual violence equation. Once you break the silence about a micro aggression, you will be empowered to break your own silence of that of others, about sexual abuse, about rape, about being enslaved in a toxic relationship, about being forced to prostitution." Complete the interview Chelo Alvarez-Stehle
Sands of Silence with 10 awards across the world continents demonstrate that families get united in the moment of darkness and support their members.