EWL News

From sexual abuse to sex trafficking: women film directors break the silence!

[Brussels, 28 January 2017] Every year, Brussels hosts an amazing film festival: “Elles Tournent”, which gives light to female directors. Last week, the 9th edition of the festival brought the moving documentary “Sands of silence: waves of courage”, directed by Chelo Alvarez-Stehle.

For 15 years, Chelo Alvarez-Stehle has investigated sex trafficking and met many survivors and victims. With this new art work, she realizes that her activism is intrinsically linked to her personal story, having been sexually abused when she was a teenager. Her documentary is a journey towards considering her story as worth, in a context of other situations of abuse on her family members. The EWL was a partner of Elles Tournent for this screening, and we had a very touching discussion after the screening when Chelo explained her approach.

“Abuse starts at home. Sex trafficking is the extreme of a continuum of violence against women. By normalizing girls’ abuse, we allow the epidemic of violence against women to grow and continue.” Chelo shows in her documentary that many victims of prostitution were abused when children. By reflecting on her own story, on the story of her sister, she starts to draw lines between all forms of male violence against women. She told us that she struggled to find funding for her movie, as producers are not interested in the reality of the continuum of male violence; they prefer individualistic stories which don’t question the systemic violence in society.

Chelo also explained that she did not want to be in the movie at first, but “the process was asking me to be true. I was minimizing my story, I did not want to compare with Virginia, a survivor of brutal violence and prostitution.” But by undertaking a therapy herself, by accepting to be a victim, she realized that it helped her to enter the mentality of all the women victims she had met during her career and activism.

Chelo’s approach leads her family to break the silence on girls’ abuse; the documentary shows the process of exchange with her sister, her sister-in-law, her cousin. “Sands of silence” is an instrumental film to break the silence and support survivors to speak out. “Fear is our worst enemy”, she said. In a society that perpetuates a culture of rape, where famous film makers are still acclaimed and awarded, Chelo wants to see an end and calls on role models to be models of integrity.

For the EWL, it was important to support Chelo’s work, and it made a link with the other Spanish movie we screened last October, “Chicas Nuevas 24 Horas”, from Mabel Lozano, who awarded Chelo Alvarez-Stehle at the Malaga Cinema Festival in April 2016! A sign that solidarity amongst women is crucial to raise awareness and bring change!

Read an article in Spanish about "Sands of silence".

Website of the film: http://www.sandsofsilence.org/

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