The Oscar–nominated film started a conversation that the church can learn from.
Earlier this year, CT reported on the sexual abuse and spiritual manipulation of Jean Vanier, who violated at least 25 adult women without disabilities over nearly a 70-year period, and did so “during prayer and spiritual devotion.”
A few weeks ago, Hohn Cho came forward about how elders at Grace Community Church mishandled treatment of women who were abused by their husbands. These names and institutions have been circulated among evangelical communities, among a list of other abusers that have been accused over the past several years.
In some accounts of sexual abuse cases, the story presented to the world is about the abuser rather than the act of courage it took for the survivor to step forward—sometimes for the sake of the survivor’s privacy and safety. But that’s not the case when it comes to the recent film Women Talking, written and directed by Sarah Polley (spoilers ahead).
Polley’s film centers on a group of eight women in a religious community left in the wake of sexual violence. The film is adapted from a book with the same title released in 2018 by Miriam Toews. In the book, the author imagines what could have taken place during an egregious yet true event that happened in a Bolivian Mennonite colony back in 2009—in which over a hundred women and girls, including children as young as five years old, were drugged with animal tranquilizers and systematically raped by men in the colony.
Throughout the film, the focus stays on the women who were abused. The stylistic choices of the film are sensitive to the topics at hand and aim to keep the survivors’ stories, dignity, and emotions at the center of the narrative. According to Polley, “We never showed the assaults. …