by M.B. Abbott
Special to the Boulder Planet

statesman.jpg "Domestic violence is the single largest cause of injury to woman. It's more common than automobile accidents, muggings and rape."

Mary Kopman
of the Longmont
Coalition for
Women in Crisis

What a pretty town Boulder is. Clear, blue skies cradle the mountains before it like a proud parent. It's a landscape you see every day riding the bus to classes, driving to work, bicycling to activities, walking hand in hand with the person you love who, hits you.

What a pretty town Boulder is, but it hides the same dirty secret of domestic abuse every other city and suburb does.

"Shattered Lives," a documentary by local filmmaker Lori Joyce showing Wednesday November 11th, gives a moving overview of domestic abuse in Boulder County and what is being done to end it.

Along with the pristine Rocky Mountain backdrop comes the unsettling Celtic strains of Loreena McKennitt's "Prologue" from her recent album Book of Secrets. Her voice, somewhere between a hum and a moan, hint at the sorrow and hope of the woman who tells her story.

"You don't realize the hurt that they're causing you," says Cynthia Lanham who lived in an abusive relationship for years. "The physical stuff goes away in two or three weeks," she points to her temple, signifying her mind, "but what they do up here..." she shakes her head ruefully, unable to fully express what wounds still remain.

Paintings of women with no mouths graze the screen, underscoring the impotence abuse victims feel. Even if they do ask for help, their words are not heard, people do not understand why they don't just leave their abusers.

Susan Ransbottom, Boulder County Domestic Abuse Prevention Project Coordinator, explains that most lethal domestic abuse incidents occur when women are trying to leave their partners. When you are asking victims to leave, you may be asking them to put their lives in danger."

Interspersed between brief interviews with local therapists, police officers, officials and organization leaders are the casualties of abuse. Teenagers explain how boyfriends threaten them. A police officer remembers his feelings of helplessness when, at 115, he found himself not yet strong enough to pull his father and his raging fists away from his mother.

Most haunting are the children. These small witnesses to abuse are often the ones most damaged, even when a hand is never laid on them. Their crayon drawings of attacks drift across the screen as their terrified voices call out to 911 operators.

It hurts to watch, but these stories must be heard and changes must be made for the violence to stop.

"Shattered Lives" does not make the mistake of lingering too long on the torment or becoming maudlin. Many human issue pieces produced stir emotion but leave you with that listless feeling that nothing can be done to change things. "Shattered Lives" offers real solutions, both on individual and community levels.

The film soon kicks into educational gear and shows some of the more effective things Boulder County does to stop domestic abuse. Safe House takes a bow, and a discussion of Boulder's pro-arrest policy - where peace officers press charges if they see evidence of abuse, rather than waiting for victims to do so - can be helpful to other cities.

In addition, the film explores an extremely effective Australian advertising campaign targeting men and encouraging them to seek help.

All the while music plays the Greek chorus for the images. Songs by The Pretenders, Sarah McLachlan, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, The Cranberries, U2 and Janis Joplin emphasis the documentary's points and comments on the action. Somber pieces give way to more joyful songs offering hope for change.

"Shattered Lives" makes its premiere at the Boulder Theater and hopes to raise money to offset production costs and help distribute the film. Idanha Films, Joyce's nonprofit company that produced "Shattered Lives" wants the film to be shown in schools, libraries and organizations dealing with domestic abuse. Currently, the National PBS series Point of View is considering adding the documentary to its line up. Several requests for the film come from the company's web site (www.idanha.org).

Along with a 45 minute documentary Wednesday night, nationally known singer Wendy Woo, Beth Quist and The Muse Dancers will perform. The show starts at 7:30 pm at the Boulder Theater, 14th and Pearl. Tickets cost $15 and are available by calling 303-786-7030.

Joyce, who spent four years producing and directing the film, offers these final words, "Shattered Lives was produced to reach out to the youth, show hope for the victim and a compassionate outreach to the perpetrator. It is my hope that the Boulder Theater on the evening of November 11th be filled with as many men as women so that as human beings we can send a clear message that we care about peace in the home and the future of our children and grandchildren."

"Shattered Lives" is not a woman's film. It's a human film, a film for families and communities to watch together and learn from.

"It's been over a year," Lanham says toward the end of "Shattered Lives," "I was driving in the car the other day. I thought, 'I haven't been hit in a year.' It made me feel really good."