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Survivors of Domestic Abuse Call for Change to Legal Systems in New Documentary

The film Survivors Speak will premiere May 15 at NorthwestFest International Documentary Festival. Featuring survivors of domestic violence breaking their silence, they explain what they wish lawyers and judges knew about intimate partner violence before they faced their abuser in court. Working with filmmaker, Jarvis Greiner of Hot Shots Films, in partnership with Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters, seven survivors aim to spark change in a legal system not designed for their cases.    “I had perceived that I lived in Canada, that I was safe and if anything happened to me there was a legal system that would protect me if anything happened, but that’s not true,” says one survivor who collaborated on the documentary.   Another of the seven described how her legal case dragged on for years. “It was a post-separation strategy by my abuser to further break me. It caused incredible stress and financial hardship. I didn’t qualify for legal aid because I had a good job, but no one can afford 7 years of legal costs and not come out without deeper wounds.”   Another recalled her first day in court. As she prepared to face her abuser for the first time since fleeing the relationship, her lawyer instructed her to “not show emotion in the court room.”   “In Alberta, domestic abuse survivors consistently report that the legal system is one of the biggest barriers on their healing journeys,” says Jan Reimer, Executive Director of Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters. “While there are many caring individuals in this system, the system needs to change!"   Filmmaker, Jarvis Greiner of Hot Shots Films, says it was an honour to work with the survivors on this project and hopes that “this film will dismantle some of the common myths about domestic abuse and help judges, lawyers, and the public understand the complexities survivors face.”     Nicholas Bala, Professor of Law at Queen’s University and an internationally recognized expert on issues related to families in the justice system, calls Survivors Speak “deeply moving.” As an advocate for breaking down silos in the legal system, Bala believes the film will be an important resource for those in law, nursing, social work and medicine. He says, “I hope this film will spark my colleagues to promote systemic changes both inside and outside the system so survivors can live free from violence and abuse.”  Survivors Speak premieres at Edmonton’s NorthwestFest International Documentary Festival on May 15, 2024.   ABOUT ACWS: For forty years, Alberta Council of Womens Shelters has been the voice of Alberta’s domestic violence and abuse shelters. They’ve published three books to advance the stories of domestic violence shelters. This is their first film production.   ABOUT THE FILMMAKER: Jarvis Greiner was winner of the 2020 International Screen Awards 'Best Emerging International Director', he was also named 'Best Director in a Canadian Feature Film' by the Hollywood North Film Awards that same year. Born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, he is a Director and Producer with Hot Shots Films.  See the trailer and reserve your seat at https://www.northwestfest.ca/films-2024backend/survivors-speak. Attendees are encouraged to make a donation to support the ongoing work of sharing this film at https://acws.ca/donate/.