Women Talking Review – Compelling Story of Sexual Assault Survivors

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Women Talking, from United Artists Releasing, presents a powerful story of the aftermath of repeated domestic violence, rape, child rape and pedophile assaults on a community of Mennonite women and their choices when they reached the breaking point.

The film begins with the images of white legs, bloody sheets, and a bunched-up nightgown followed by the screams. This scene is repeated throughout the film, as each of the women are victims of the male predators within their own community.

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What follows is a discourse on sexual violence. They women of the community have created a council of sorts and are voting to determine if they stay (and tolerate), stay and fight, or leave, essentially forced to flee, taking only what they can carry, leave the foundation of the life they have built, and move to an unknown location.

While the specifics of each character, other than Scarface Janz, played by Frances McDormand, represent the many forms of abuse the exactness of the characters fade behind the emotional trauma of the stories.

Throughout the day, the women recount the horrors of rape, of being drugged, of being told it was a spirit, that it was wild imagination, and while this story takes place in 2010, the Mennonite women have belief based on the traditions of the church which date back one hundred years or more, when scripture was still interrupted as dominance over women.

Moreover, the belief that Christ came to set the captive free and not enslave him or her to skewed doctrine, wrong thinking or personal power trips was just not part of the teaching and so the women were stuck. Either turn away from everything they understood and believed as truth and followed by the belief they would be forever banished from Heaven, and this weighed heavy on them.

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The film also presents vividly the post-traumatic stress disorder that many, and I would say all, in some way or another experience after waking and finding their beds bloody and blood dripping from their bodies.

Additionally, even in 2010 the local law enforcement leaves it up to the community to police themselves. So in addition to repeated rapes, sexual assault, domestic violence, child rape and violence, the women are served repeated injustice. A cyclical society of violence, of which they had no escape.

The women were repeatedly drugged with cow tranquilizers and as the decisions are made, the horrors of the lives they have endured become more obvious. In additional to rape and child rape, the women were brutally beaten at whim. The brutality was used to beat them down, and keep them in line, as if they were being trained like the animals on the farm.

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My initial screening reaction after attending the Women Talking screening at AFI Film Fest I've reposted here. It is a poignant conversation on sexual violence, abuse, domestic violence, and child rape, and pedophile. It's hard to believe that they were able to bring in all the taboo subjects in one film.

A change of wardrobe and it could be any group of sexual assault survivors, from any community, even those from SHE SAID. I've said this frequently rape is crime of choice for many in all walks of life because of the system that refuses to prosecute.

Statistically only 6 out of every 1000 rapes end up court and only three do jail time. Of course, out of the 1000 victims many refuse to report the crime, which doesn't negate that it happened, it the choice the victim makes. And society has made that the acceptable course of action for many as jurisdictions are callous to victims.

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We all have heard the horror stories of backlogged rape kits sitting for how many years waiting to be tested, or the necessity of repeating the details, which for those who are drugged, saying "I woke up and knew" doesn't mean anything.

When it is stranger rape the detectives have the women repeat the crime, and repeat, and relive, and repeat, to what end? The system grossly fails victims. The blame is not simply one town, city, or state jurisdiction, the blame is from the top down. Prosecutors pick and choose who to prosecute based on the detective's recommendation.

So, if the evidence is there meaning if the victim has had a rape test completed, the detective still can recommend no prosecution. And we won't even go into the possibility of affluence directing the investigation on the side. Women Talking is hopefully just the beginning of the conversation.

While Women Talking was a fictionalized version of an actual event in Canada, the truths of sexual violence are real. The lack of concern by jurisdictions, the gross failures, the preference to coddle the criminal and worse injustice, which is a tactic to negate, beat down, and revictimize and force victims into tolerating the treatment as normal. Nothing said by any of the characters in this film is an obscure or unrealistic response to sexual trauma.

Women Talking, a powerful, compelling drama, opens in select cities December 2, 2022. Check local listings.


Country: Canada.

Language: English.

Runtime: 104minutes.

Release date: December 2, 2022.

Director: Sarah Polley.

Writer: Sarah Polley, Miriam Toews based on the book by Miriam Toews.

Producer: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Frances McDormand.

Cast: Rooney Mara, Judith Ivey, Emily Mitchell, Kate Hallett, Liv McNeil, Claire Foy. Sheila McCarthy, Jessie Buckley, Michelle McLeod, Kira Guloien, Shayla Brown, Frances McDormand, Vivien Endicott Douglass, August Winter, and Ben Whishaw.

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