this documentary examines why women don’t report sexual assault
Jade Jackman’s new project aims to dismantle the discourse around what makes a ‘good’ victim.
What does a victim of sexual assault look like? What do they say? How do they dress? What do they do for a living? What makes their story real, true and deserving of being heard? The answer of course, is that there is no ‘right’ way to tell your story, and there’s no such thing as a ‘good’ victim. The myth that there is is something filmmaker Jade Jackman is trying to dispel with her latest project -- a film about the horror of reporting sexual violence with a script made through collaboration with survivors .
The filmmaker wants to encourage all women and non-binary people who have experienced sexualisation as women to share their own stories of sexual violence, harassment and assault, which will go towards a script, with accounts kept anonymous. The script will then make up the foundation of Jade’s film.
The documentary will explore why women do not report sexual assault, either to the police or authorities, or even to their friends and family. A collaboration with women in the nightlife scene — including Skye from Pussy Palace and DJ Bearcat — Jade’s film comes at a time when victims are more attacked than ever for sharing their stories. We are, after all, living in the age of Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the US Supreme Court despite being accused of sexual assault, following an incredibly brave and emotional testimony from Dr Christine Blasey Ford.
“Only 15% of women will go to the police after an incident of rape,” Jade tells i-D. “Contextualising that with my own experiences, my friends’ experiences and the fact that many sexual abuse cases mention the plaintiff’s sexual history, I wanted to make an experimental documentary on the reasons why women don’t report.
“As someone who has made work about violence against women for years, I also wanted to change the visual narrative around it. Unfortunately, a lot of us experience it in our lifetimes and we need to use creativity to alter the stereotype of what a ‘good’ and ‘believable’ survivor looks like.”
The film’s visuals are aesthetically inspired by blurry and trippy rides home in the back of taxicabs and hazy memories of drunk -- potentially unwanted -- hands. “Think if Mulholland Drive, Under the Skin and Enter the Void had a love child,” Jade says. “Those are the visual influences.”
The aesthetic choices are reflective of the filmmakers’ personal experiences of sexual violence as well. “I can’t speak for everyone who is sexualised as a woman, I can only talk from my own experiences and the story I am trying to tell,” she explains.
“I’ve been sexually assaulted by bouncers, leaving me feeling like, ‘who am I supposed to tell?’ When this kind of stuff happens on a night out or with drinking, the mental gymnastics survivors do is wild, as they know they will often be re-traumatised by the process of reporting. It is not a lack of bravery that prevents many from reporting their experiences, it is more the distinct lack of protection and sensitivity that the legal process offers that drives so many of these stories underground.”
The project is Jade’s contribution to the #MeToo movement and an attempt to visually shift the narrative around what a ‘good victim’ looks like, as well as the representation of sexual violence on screen.
“With this film, I want to show the kind of people we choose to believe and who we don’t,” she tells i-D. “We are looking to collaborate with survivors who might want to join us in script sessions and share their experiences anonymously as we are trying to show how this is a common experience for those who are sexualised as women around the world. I hope when people watch it we can all learn ways in which we can believe all women and support survivors.”