WMC Women Under Siege

We asked people on camera about ‘privilege.’ They told us about rape.

A few months ago, an Indian-American Hindu, a Christian Armenian-American, an American Jew, and a Muslim Pakistani-American filmed 22 strangers addressing questions about their experiences regarding gender, race, and wealth. We wanted to produce a website of short videos that explore the concept of “privilege.”

The strangers participated in the project as volunteers—they were not told the questions beforehand. But we were saddened to discover that many of the women and one man we were interviewing had survived sexualized violence. Their stories moved us to tears from behind the camera and in the editing room.

“I think it’s something that more women should talk about,” said Camilla, a 62-year-old fashion designer who participated in the interviews. 

Weeks after we filmed the participants, we crowded into an editing room at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, to discuss what we’d gathered. As we reviewed the participants’ stories about trauma, abuse, and sexualized violence on screen, we realized that despite months of close collaboration between us, we ourselves had not had the courage to share our stories of violation and exploitation with each other. As we revealed our own experiences, our eyes, once again, welled with tears. Why had it taken so long for us to share our stories and why was it so difficult?

In the United States, one in five women report experiencing rape at some point in their lives, according to the 2011 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Globally, 35 percent of women have experienced sexualized or physical violence, the World Health Organization reported in 2013. And more often than not, sexualized violence goes unreported, for fear of being stigmatized or shamed.

It is our hope that the participants’ courage to speak out in front of a camera can inspire women and men from around the world to share the injustices they have faced and to seek support. Women in all demographics do not merely read about, hear about, or watch these stories—we live them. And while society may blame us or we might blame ourselves for what happened, while we are often silenced because we are afraid, there is power in our numbers and the community we can create. We found that in telling our own stories, we received support and strength. 
For Camilla, it was not easy to share her experience in front of a camera. But, as she told us, “Only by speaking about it can we stop it.” 

To see another interview conducted by the “Privilege Project,” click here.

More articles by Category: Violence against women
More articles by Tag: Rape, College, Sexualized violence



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