The story behind our project
The summer following our respective graduations from college, we decided to make a documentary film. We knew we wanted to make a film documenting people telling their stories but were unsure about what the theme and focus of our film would be. After much thought, we decided we wanted to focus on sexual violence. Originally, this was only going to be a documentary film in the D.C. area. However, after speaking to our first interviewee, who graciously provided us with a great deal of constructive criticism and feedback about our goals and vision for the project, we began to develop a plan for expanding its scope.
Gender-based violence and sexual violence are topics which are extremely close to our hearts and important to us, since I, Amanda, am a survivor. My experiences have been a strong force behind my long-standing commitment to justice work and human rights advocacy. Since my life was touched by this violence, I, Amanda, a person who loves talking, have struggled to find my voice. I have struggled with figuring out how to channel all of my trauma, pain, and suffering into creating something meaningful and beautiful that could help others and me heal. This project is unique in that it allows me to work with an amazing person, a good friend of mine, Tanya Horwitz, who is equally passionate about supporting and empowering survivors and changing the world in the process. Tanya challenges me to consider the possibilities and work to make my dreams a reality.
When I began to break my silence and speak my truth, to fight to be believed and be heard, I was silenced. I am personally sick of being silenced by individuals, friends, groups, and institutions who are/were supposed to support me, protect me, and help me. My experiences with having people deny my truth because my truth makes them uncomfortable, have been far worse, and far more damaging and traumatizing for me, than my experiences with gender based and sexual violence.
Later, as I began doing human rights research in Chile, where I interacted with people whose lives have been touched by the violence of the Pinochet Era, I began to understand how giving testimony and having others bear witness to your pain without being questioned can be an incredibly therapeutic, empowering, and healing experience. Through my research, I have come to understand how important it is for us, people whose lives have been touched by violence, to have the opportunity and space to tell others about our truth and to be believed.
So on the one hand, doing this project is healing for me, but this project is not just for me; it is for all survivors.
-Amanda, Co-Founder and Executive Director, The Testimony Project, Washington, D.C.