Research data shows that Child Sexual Abuse is not a topic that we can attribute to the West alone, or to Girls alone. It is rising in Pakistan.The Tale by award-winning filmmaker Jennifer Fox discusses the fickle nature of our memories and raises awareness about Child Sexual Abuse (CSA). The movie was initially screened at the Sundance Festival in 2018.It was also nominated for numerous accolades. The Golden Globes and Emmys to name a few.
The Tale was released over a year ago. However, it is still being hailed as a driving force for the ongoing #MeToo movement. The film has had a far-reaching global impact on raising awareness about Child Sexual Abuse and tackles the complex issue with nuance and compassion.
A Film Necessary For The South-Asian Audience
It saddens me that something so crucial for the masses was given no coverage on the local media. Child Sexual Abuse is a rampant problem for the inhabitants of South Asian countries. It is an issue that needs to be discussed and eradicated as soon as possible.
According to UNICEF ‘Violence against children is widespread and pervasive and remains a harsh reality for millions of children in South Asia which has long-lasting consequences on their lives. Over half of the world’s children experienced severe violence last year. It is estimated that 64 percent of these children are in South Asia.’
Moreover, a report published by Sahil (an NGO in Pakistan) in 2018, stated that there was a ’32 percent increase in the number of child abuse cases in the first six months of 2018. As compared to the cases reported during the first six months of 2017. The six month data showed that out of the total 1,298 reported cases, 56 percent of the victims were girls. While 44 percent of the victims were boys.The data also revealed that children in the age brackets of 6-10 and 11-15 are most vulnerable to abuse’.
With harrowing statistics such as these, it is about time we raise awareness about Child Sexual Abuse in our communities. One great way to achieve this is by hosting local screenings of The Tale and getting the conversation started.
The True Story Behind The Tale
The film is based on director Jennifer Fox’s childhood experience. When Jennifer was a young, pre-pubescent girl of 13 in the summer of 1973, she had a “special relationship” with her 40 year old track coach- Bill. This “relationship’ was aided by her married, horse-riding instructor, Mrs.G – ‘the most beautiful woman Jennifer had ever seen’.
In hindsight, the “relationship” qualifies as textbook child abuse. However, for most of her life Jennifer rationalized the abuse as her ‘first relationship’. She was enamored by these two powerful and charismatic adults who considered her as their equal. Growing up, Jennifer never considered herself a victim and was intoxicated by the attention she was getting.
She was so blasé about her “relationship”, that she went so far as to write an essay about it for school. In the essay she confessed about meeting ‘two very special people whom she had come to love dearly and felt lucky enough to be able to share in their love’; her teacher commented with a note stating that ‘it couldn’t be true,since she was very well adjusted’.
It is this essay, titled “The Tale”, that Jennifer’s mother finds forty years later. She is shocked to realize her suspicions confirmed. She proceeds to confront Jennifer. Jennifer is now in her late forties and works as a successful travelling journalist and professor living in New York.
The Phone Call That Started It All
The phone call prompts Jennifer to recall time spent with Bill and Mrs.G. She comes to the horrifying conclusion that she was a child that had been taken advantage of by two adults. Adults whom she trusted and loved.
Coming face to face with her own truth, Jennifer gains a new perspective and understanding of her abuse. She realizes that Bill and Mrs.G groomed her to keep her abuse a secret. So she has been suppressing and denying the abuse for decades.
With new insight, Jennifer takes a literal trip down memory lane. Thus, follows a lucid recollection between past and present. The film clips back and forth between teenage and adult Jennifer- who struggles with disturbing realities of the “relationship”.
Jennifer Fox Plays An Important Role In Bringing About Change
The Tale is Jennifer Fox’s 114 minute narrative debut and is a product of several years of self-struggle. Jennifer stated that her goal was to ‘use the power of visual storytelling to show the horrors of Child Sexual Abuse from the perspective of a child’.
Having achieved that, she now wants to work towards deepening and changing conversations around important social issues. She is experimenting with ways to use the film beyond the screen to encourage discussion about trauma and healing.
She uses her memoir to examine how individuals often forget traumatic memories and tell themselves stories in order to survive. It also highlights ways in which fiction can be used to bring about positive change in the world.
In a letter posted on The Tale’s website, Jennifer Fox writes that ‘from the beginning it was important to her that the film represented an authentic tapestry of her experience. She wanted to give all the parts of the story a voice. Particularly to her thirteen year old self as well’.
By dramatizing her abuse, she explores how difficult it for us to see our reflections. To accept, that the stories we have been telling ourselves for so long, may not actually be true.
Delivering a powerful speech at the World Childhood Foundation’s gala last year, Jennifer Fox pointed out that
‘child sexual abuse is everywhere…beyond class, culture and race. It happens to everyone across the globe and it’s time to say “no more!”.
Areesha Khan harbours a burning passion for writing. This is what she has to say for herself:
I’m your average Pakistani Millennial who loves binge watching trash-TV. When I can, I try to widen my horizons and watch profound works of cinematography as well. In the wild, I can be found sniffing my weathered paperbacks. I regularly obsess over true crime (much to the chagrin of my friends) and love discussing it unprompted. I’m currently working on my undergrad and would love to have a profession in print media.
View my Portfolio: https://areeshakhancontentwriting.journoportfolio.com/
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