I still remember the day I "came out" as being a survivor of sexual abuse. I remember dealing with the waves of emotions, the flashbacks, the fears, the anxieties and, yes, the overwhelming shame.
In a way, I had it easier when I decided to go public about my abuse because as an adult with a disability I've long been considered more "vulnerable" anyway. While I still had to deal with those stereotypes that sexual abuse doesn't happen to men, it didn't cause quite as much questioning of my masculinity as it frequently does.
Then again, the disability had already done that in my life.
The 10-minute short film Shame, co-directed by Jennifer Irons and Salvador Lopez is being released through Distrify in October in honor of October's being Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The film tells the story of Lance (Ryan Smith), a handsome and athletic college student whose wife Leanne (Rebekah Wilson) is a perpetrator. It seems that Lance has developed a habit that when the attacks occur, he quietly heads back to the home of his parents, Nancy (Debbie Rallo) and Robert (Paul Young), to clean up his wounds and gather himself.
While Nancy and Robert have been quietly biting their tongues, this most recent attack has pushed both of them over the edge and family tensions rise as Lance is pushed to press charges while also dealing with what may very well be his own sense of shame. When the police (played by Joselito Marquez and Sophiane Cineus) do finally arrive, Lance finally has to make his choice.
At times feeling like a PSA and at times like a slice-of-life short, Shame is most effective in shedding light on an issue that is very seldom discussed even among domestic violence circles. As a film critic who is also heavily involved in domestic violence prevention efforts in my own community, I often watch the back-and-forth chatter on social networks about domestic violence and can't help but notice a significantly quieter chatter when the victim is actually a male.
Oh, and for the record, men are victims of domestic violence.
Irons and Lopez do a nice job of creating what could be consider a primer on domestic violence that includes glimpses of the family response, an introspective look at the thought pattern of the victim, and the reasoning behind why so many seem to always "go back."
Where Shame falls just a bit short, at least for this critic, is in its portrayal of the parents and what felt like particularly harsh responses to their son's victimization. As someone who has worked around violence prevention for years, I can't help but cringe a bit when I hear violent responses to violent acts. It occurs rather strongly twice in this film with once, in particular, actually suggesting domestic violence as a response to domestic violence when the mother, out of frustration, threatens "to kill you myself" if her son doesn't report the crime.
I understood what was being sought by these scenes, but the intensity of the wording dominated the scenes and in a film that only runs 10 minutes it bothers me that what I'm remembering most vividly is that particular scene.
Ryan Smith does do a good job of portraying a young man who is clearly struggling with the feelings around what is happening to him and what to do about it, while the rest of the cast also supports the film quite nicely with a special kudo going to Joselito Marquez for his effective portrayal of a male police officer who responds to the family's home.
While I found myself concerned about the role of the family in Shame, it can't be stressed enough that it's an important film that I'm excited to see released for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It's challenging to create an effective short about such a multi-layered social issue, but Irons and Lopez have created a film that serves as a terrific starting point for valuable conversations that we need to be having.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic