Because We Are Girls follows the story of three Punjabi-Canadian sisters as they try to prosecute their cousin for rape and sexual abuse committed against them at the ages of 10 and 11.
I did really well with this film, I felt the tears welling up at so many points in the film, and I thought I’d be able to hold it, but as 2 of the 3 sisters came out for the Q&A, I just lost it. I burst into tears. Because this should not happen to any child. And it happens constantly, everywhere, to so many people. And it is so hard to get justice.
The beating heart of this very raw film is the relationship between the sisters. Because no one believed them, except each other. Their parents slowly grew to accept it, but, both because of their ethnic culture and their generational culture, they didn’t want to encourage any attempts at public prosecution for fear of what it would do to the family name.
The treatment of their parents was very interesting. Because they are neither castigated with condemnation nor are they absolved. After all, as one of the sisters said in the Q&A, they were groomed too. They were groomed to believe that this person would never do such a thing, they were groomed to believe him and defend him. And yet, there is a confrontation in the family towards the end of the film, where the girls said to their father, you had suspicions about what he was doing, and you did nothing. You had a chance to change things for us, if you had stood up for us, but you didn’t keep us safe. It’s a hard but true fact. And the message going forward is that, to prevent this happening to other kids, we need to equip adults with the ability to have those conversations, take those stands.
This documentary is so intimate and traces the effects of trauma over generations. This act has impacted on these sisters, damaged their relationship with their parents, impacted on the way they care for their children. Hopefully the prosecution and the documentary changes that narrative, of not inheriting trauma, but being inspired by bravery. I certainly know that’s what I took away from it.