On Oct. 24 in the Donald P. Corbett Business Building, Vanessa McNeal conducted a screening and presentation of her film, “The Voiceless.” As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, McNeal shared her documentary, and her story, with University of Maine students.
“The documentary was eye-opening and amazing to watch,” second-year student Claire Klaus said. “We got to listen to each survivor’s story, while also getting to see their reactions and watch them on the screen. It made the film so impactful and intense. It really got the message across that sexual violence and abuse can happen to anyone, male or female.”
The hour-long film shares the stories of five men who are victims of sexual violence. They individually talk about their experiences, and how it has affected their lives. The documentary helped educate viewers, and show that sexual violence does not discriminate based on gender, race or sexual orientation.
The film draws from the experiences of Kaleb, Jassim, Will, Ivan and Dakota about how these events have changed their outlook on life and who they are as adults, as well as why people should not stay silent when they are abused or raped. These survivors tell their personal stories in hopes that others will feel more comfortable and confident, and share their own experiences.
“Sharing your story can bring people together in a place of healing and connection,” McNeal said. “When you are feeling alone, and someone comes into your life who shares a similar song, it can open up a whole other world. Healing isn’t a straight line. You can have good days, and also some bad days where you might travel back three steps before you can move forward. I wanted to show this in the film.”
McNeal stayed after the film showing for a Q&A session with the students and faculty. Students asked questions about the survivors specifically, and about warning signs and ways that they can help loved ones affected by sexual violence. McNeal also shared her personal story of sexual violence and let the audience know why she decided to create a documentary based off of it.
“This is so important to shed light on because of the statistics that show us one in six men experience sexual violence before the age of 18,” McNeal said. “There are men on this campus, men in fraternities, men you walk past in the hallways and in the grocery store who have experienced this, and it matters. And we should care because we have to.”
McNeal travels around the country sharing her story and teaching others how to speak out and confront adversity. At the Newark International Film Festival McNeal won the award for Best Director for her role in the documentary’s production.
“I wanted to share the stories of these men, and let people know that they are not alone. I wanted to honor their voices,” McNeal said.
For more information on the film, please visit thevoicelessdocumentary.com