NOTE: This is a guest blog post from Kimberly Bautista, Director/Producer of the documentary film Justice for my Sister and the Founder/Director of el Colectivo Justicia para mi Hermana.
Justice for my Sister is a 70-minute documentary I directed about violence against women in Guatemala. At its core, Justice for my Sister is a David versus Goliath story. A courageous woman named Rebeca takes on a giant system to demand answers for her sister’s brutal murder and she has all the odds stacked against her — yet her resilience and power is unstoppable. Violence against women, and specifically femicide (gender-based killing) is an epidemic in Guatemala: nearly 6000 women have been murdered in the last decade and only 2% of the killers were sentenced. This film documents one of the few successful cases from beginning to end.
During the production of the film, the I became the target of robbery and rape by an organized criminal group. Doing work of this nature in Guatemala is very dangerous, but because the criminals were never held accountable, it is unknown whether I was targeted because of my work, or if it was simply a random act of violence. Either is a possibility, and a reflection of how widespread violence against women is in Guatemala.
This experience fortified my determination to address this problem on various levels. Together with Rebeca, my crew, and other friends, we formed a Collective in Guatemala. To date, we have brought the film and violence prevention workshops to over 130 communities on a national scale, and reaching over 7,000 viewers. Survivors Connect partnered with us to launch an SMS-based texting service. There are two phases of the project: audiences can subscribe to the service to receive news, tips, updates, and inspirational quotes on how to prevent violence and other activities related to the film on a bi-monthly basis. Audience members have responded positively to the bulk messaging and text back affirmatives and from time to time, the colloquial equivalent to “Right on!” (“A huevo!”).
The second phase allows women to communicate directly with our team via text message for a referral or advice. When a woman wishes to report threats or harassment, or is in need emotional support or reference, she can send an SMS message to our service. From there, an operator will answer with information, responding to every situation accordingly. Typically, the operators receive messages from women who are in abusive relationships and want to leave their aggressor. We have strategic alliances with the local authorities and Embassies in Guatemala, which also gives us leverage to advocate for audience members. We can call the public prosecutors on behalf of those that contact us on via text message to put political pressure on the authorities to follow up on their cases.
Photo courtesy of Justice for My Sister.
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