Review of “Till Domestic Violence Does Us Part”

dv2.jpgOne of a Kind: It’s not very often that a Deaf-friendly film comes along, written, directed, produced, and acted entirely by Deaf people. A creation from Julie Rems-Smario of DeafHope and Wayne Betts and Chad Taylor of Mosdeux, “Till Domestic Violence Does Us Part” is one such film, a smart and captivating portrayal of domestic violence. Told in ASL and from the perspective of a Deaf couple (acted by Amber Stanton and Jeff Pratt), it’s a must for viewing by any Deaf person who wants to learn more about domestic violence. As requested by DeafHope, ASC offers a review of the film here.

Two Versions: The DVD can be viewed in two ways – as a traditional movie-style version of a couple’s domestic violence-tainted relationship or as a workshop version in which scenes from the story are interspersed with accompanying narration (by Rosa Lee Gallimore). Presented clearly in an informative yet gentle manner, the narration expands on the story scenes by showing how they illustrate the various patterns and behaviors of domestic violence. The captions are useful, as they help clarify some regional signs such as “isolation” and “honeymoon” which may not be understood by every Deaf person.

Under-18 Audience: The adult content of the story, in particular, a scene involving sexual violence, may make it undesirable and uncomfortable for some parents, schools and other programs to consider showing to an under-18 audience. Because older children and teenagers can benefit greatly from learning about domestic violence early on, we would love to see a third, toned-down version of the story available on the DVD, or even a new film, showing domestic violence from the perspective of a younger Deaf person. By educating children and teenagers about domestic violence, we can give them the ability to recognize and cope with it, before it takes over their lives. Children need to know they can tell a teacher, a grandparent, or a trusted adult about any domestic violence that is occurring in their families. Teenagers need to be able to notice the first warning signs of domestic violence that can surface during their dating years. “If you love me, you’ll have sex with me” is just one example of threatening behavior that is related to domestic violence.

Subtle Forms of Domestic Violence: We were glad to see the film address the power and control behavior patterns that underlie domestic violence behavior. Beyond the stereotypical images of physical abuse and threats of intimidation, domestic violence also includes emotional and verbal abuse, financial abuse, and isolation. It’s far too easy for people to minimize the terrible impact of non-physical types of abuse, and remain in unhealthy and unsafe relationships because physical violence has not yet happened.

Straight, Gay, Lesbian, Rich, Poor, Educated or Not: Domestic violence is not limited to straight relationships only, nor does it always mean male-to-female abuse. Unfortunately, the film misses the opportunity to mention this in the narration or in a “fact sheet” at the end. Domestic violence can involve a woman hurting a man; it can also happen in gay and lesbian relationships. Domestic violence happens everywhere. Being rich, poor, or middle-class, white-collar, blue-collar, Deaf or hearing makes no difference, neither does coming from a Deaf or hearing family, being an ASL user or an oralist. Domestic violence does not discriminate.

dh_logo.gifEducational Tool: From our perspective as Deaf psychotherapists who have worked extensively with Deaf people whose lives have been affected by domestic violence, “Till Domestic Violence Does Us Part” is a wonderful and accessible educational tool. More than just a film that can help people recognize domestic violence in their own lives, it’s a film with an educational message that can go a long way in deterring people from becoming involved in unhealthy, abusive relationships. We highly recommend that mental health professionals and agencies who work with Deaf people have a copy of this DVD on hand.

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