Filmmaker turns focus to violence against Aboriginal women

Penticton Indian Band member has created a campaign of short films to stop violence against Aboriginal women

Touched by the stories of heartache and by the strength of women, a Penticton Indian Band member has created a campaign of short films to stop violence against Aboriginal women in Canada.

“I am a survivor of domestic abuse,” said Victoria Baptiste, executive producer of Dust Dancer Productions. “I became involved in all these different groups, marches, meetings and vigils held for women, and because I am a filmmaker I decided this would be the year that I would bring a short video campaign to help boost awareness of what is happening.”

Baptiste wrapped filming recently with a video shoot at the Penticton Law Courts for the fifth installment titled Healing. The other 30 to 60-second spots focus on spousal abuse, sexual abuse and two on the murdered and missing women. She will be releasing them on her YouTube and Vimeo sites on Thursday, and plans on partnering with awareness groups to have the films incorporated into their messages and websites. Baptiste said it was being a part of these awareness groups that helped her come to a realization that she wants to pay forward.

“I never allowed myself or considered myself to be a victim. Going to all the different awareness events helped me understand that what happened to me wasn’t normal,” she said.

The filmmaker said during her research she found statistics that one in three Aboriginal women are sexually abused in their lifetime, with 75 per cent of the abuse happening before they are 18 years old.

“That is what these films are about, demanding justice at a courthouse level for all these horrible injustices happening,” said Baptiste.

Amongst the statistics Baptiste learned in the process was that in 2008 there were 67,000 Aboriginal women who reported being victim to extreme violence, which works out to be 183 people a day. She said the numbers are “shocking” especially when you consider only one in seven women report those crimes.

“I think one of the biggest things I would tell myself is that it is not as bad as it really is. We lessen the impact of it, justifying it in a way I guess. Fear also plays a role. Fear of the person abusing you, fear of their family, the community and how people react to a woman who speaks out on domestic violence. You can have 50 people supporting you but just putting two people across from you hollering and saying bad things about you or telling you that you deserve it makes it harder to accept those 50 positive reactions. The negatives stand out the most in my experience,” said Baptiste. “The best thing you can do is reach out to people because chances are they already know about the abuse and have tried to help. It will be hard but it just takes that one step out and they will reach back to help you.”

Baptiste said there are several outlets of support for women including the Okanagan Nation Transition Emergency Housing and Penticton and Area Women’s Centre.