"Stories of Silence: Recovering from Sexual Abuse," an hour-length documentary airing on KCTS tonight, turns the spotlight on how men have...
“Stories of Silence: Recovering from Sexual Abuse,” an hour-length documentary airing on KCTS tonight, turns the spotlight on how men have healed after the trauma. And that was exactly Seattle filmmaker Ethan Delavan’s point.
“Remember that Clint Eastwood movie ‘Mystic River?’ I loved it and I hated it,” Delavan said in an interview recently. “The victim, for the whole movie, was a useless twit. There’s this notion that when someone’s abused that their life is ruined. What I wanted to do, in this film, is to show the getting better. And the different ways men have.”
Delavan knows all the experience: He was abused by an uncle in Utah and in Texas when he was about 8.
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He talks about it in the film; so do his parents, a brother and a cousin. But these interviews are just part of a chorus of recollections from many men and their family members talking about sexual abuse.
Delavan didn’t think his family could tolerate the kind of in-depth interviewing and reporting he would need to do to turn a single narrative about his own life.
He also didn’t want to narrow the film to one particular type of abuse, namely the sexual abuse by Catholic priests. “Although I could have gone in depth about so much betrayal by the church,” he says about the stories he collected from some of his interviewees.
Rather, he wanted his starting point to be: “It happened. Now, what?”
“How do we deal? How do we become a whole person and have whole relationships?”
That’s the third phase of such an experience. First, you’re a victim. Then, a survivor. Finally, you find a kind of voice.
“For men it’s not usually OK to show our feelings, to be vulnerable. But a group of men getting together saying ‘We’re hurt’ is a huge relief. It’s a relief for men to be able to open up.”
This is the first feature-length documentary for Delavan, 36, who teaches media arts at Seattle Country Day School. Some of the school parents, in fact, helped finance the film, which cost some $15,000 and six years to make.
Delavan attended a 2001 National Organization on Male Sexual Victimization conference as well as a 2003 Survivors Network of those Abused By Priests to gather footage. He weaves in courtroom footage of one man who took his abuser to trial. He films therapists. He shows us one man singing a song and another man showing off his upper-body tattoo. “Here’s where the pedophile priest lies,” the man says pointing to an image on his chest.
The men are named, but they’re introduced so rapidly it’s hard to keep track of who’s who. Or where’s where: We see one man with his family in the backyard, the tattoo guy talking from the side of a road, but both men could be speaking from Anywhere, U.S.A.
Those could be serious turnoffs for viewers who prefer a one-hour documentary to have a more conventional beginning, middle and end; to be more character-driven than topic driven; to even, simply, include some statistics. What’s the national number for the men who’ve been sexually abused?
At a screening for survivors, however, Delavan received a standing ovation.
“One message I wanted to get across is that there is an end to the pain. And you do regain yourself. You do.”
And if there was any way for him to go back in time, to not have been abused, Delavan says in the film that he would not. Because, he says, it’s made him who he is today.
Florangela Davila: 206-464-2916 or firstname.lastname@example.org