"We Are Survivors" Highlights the Power of Empathy in Addressing Sexual Assault

Apr 8, 2016

Iowa State University alum Vanessa McLean first documented her experience with sexual assault in her movie "I Am" in July of last year. Unexpectedly, she says, baring her soul for audiences was a catalyst.

"My healing took off after I was open about my experiences and it's something so powerful about saying that has been on your heart and mind all of your life," she says.

So she expanded her efforts and made a second film, "We Are Survivors," allowing for eight more sexual assault survivors to share their stories.

"I remember after we filmed that day in Des Moines, they walked away different people. Since then, they have grown and really opened their wings. I think it's amazing how much they've changed since they've been open about their life, too."

And that healing wasn't limited to the survivors featured in the film itself. McLean was approached by a gentleman after she screened "We Are Survivors."

"He just told me that he was astounded and he really appreciated me coming out with the film, and that I was really brave, and that he hoped that one day he hoped to share his truth and be open about the things that had happened in his life," she says. "There's so many people who that this is happening to and for a lot of people, they never share. So they're carrying that guilt and that shame or whatever that may be for their entire life."

McLean says she hopes this film, and that Sexual Awareness Month, helps people realize the prevalence of the problem. The film will be screened tomorrow at noon at the Robert Lee Recreation Center in Iowa City.