“Five Awake” Lights a Fire
By Sarah Chamberlain
FIVE. If a gun is present in a domestic violence situation, that’s the number of times by which a woman’s risk of death is increased. However, that’s also the number of women who stood up for victims and achieved something truly remarkable.
Last week, a screening of the award-winning documentary “Five Awake” took place at the Helen Mills Theater right here in New York City. While Louisiana State Representative Helena Moreno was unable to attend, Kim Sport, Charmaine Caccioppi, Mary Claire Landry, Donna Dees, and Susan Willis were all happy to answer any and all questions regarding the film and their advocacy work. “Five Awake” is a film about courage, passion, and the value of advocacy. It reveals the tragic reality for many victims of domestic abuse, but, in following the journey of those five women, it shows the kind of world that is possible. A world in which protecting human rights is at the forefront of every legislator’s agenda. A world in which partisan politics and pettiness do not overshadow the grave importance of defending the marginalized. Thanks to these women, that reality is more tangible than ever. Through their exhaustive efforts in the Louisiana state legislature, a package of six bills was unanimously passed with the sole objectives of protecting the life and dignity of victims. According to the United Way of Southeast Louisiana, “the six bills led to: 1) increased penalties for domestic abuse, 2) firearm prohibitions for offenders, 3) guidelines for Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs, 4) expedited transmission of protective orders to statewide law enforcement database, 5) prohibition of release on recognizance for violation of protective orders, 6) immediate divorce for victims, 7) punitive damages for victims and 8) the creation of the Domestic Violence Prevention Commission.”
What makes this extraordinary is the fact that it was achieved in Louisiana, a state in the Deep South with the second-highest rate of men killing women in the nation. Other states have since enacted similar measures, but many have yet to follow. While it’s easy to get discouraged, it’s incredibly heartening to see what a profound effect their success has had on national advocacy groups. Domestic violence is a unique, yet - sadly - common, issue. It is an epidemic that affects all communities, and, therefore, requires a truly intersectional approach. With that in mind, a combination of grassroots advocacy and direct lobbying has the ability to break down barriers that were previously thought to be impenetrable. It doesn’t matter where you live, how many resources are available, or which side of the political aisle you’re on - if you have the passion, then you have the potential. The great triumph in “Five Awake” is not only that it shows how those women succeeded, but that ANY individual can be a game changer.
“One woman awake awakens another,
The second awakens the next door neighbor,
And three awake can rouse a town,
And turn the whole place upside down.
And many awake can raise such a fuss,
That it finally awakens the rest of us.
One woman up with dawn in her eyes - multiplies.”
Five Awake is still in the festivals circuit, but the team is hopeful that it will get picked up by Netflix. In the meantime, check out the trailer here.
To continue reading about the link between guns and domestic abuse, check out this piece from the New York Times.