The first time we presented our just finished film to high-school students in Santa Monica, California, a senior girl had her hand raised before we opened for questions. “How did you manage to forgive?” she asked, “because I am unable to forgive those who have sexually abused me.” Her question was unexpected. This was our test screening, and we had no idea that our film was going resonate in a profound way with teenagers. Since then, we’ve had many occasions to witness the film’s impact in schools and colleges from the border city of Mexicali, Mexico to Barcelona, Madrid, Oxford University and Yale.

Sands of Silence a tool to empower students

At a Q&A with a group of 100 14 to 18-year-old students in Spain, several of them found the courage to line up to share their testimony, defying those who giggled and made fun of them.

A senior said, “Someone in my family was abused by my uncle, and he is about to come out of prison like Lala’s abuser. And we don’t know what to do.”

A 16-year-old girl said, “I want you all to know that I have just become emancipated from my abusive family and am living on my own.”

A 15-year old said, “My ex-boyfriend is stalking me, and I don’t know what to do.”

Hopefully we had counselors and teachers in the audience who were able to follow up. It was the first time those stories had been told.

In the after-screening questionnaire that the 100 students filled-in that day there was at least 10 students admitting they had been victims of abuse. There were many more who knew someone very close who had been victimized. Two students felt compelled to create a club to fight sexual abuse.

A freshman at a university in Spain insisted on talking to me after the screening.
A few months back she had gone to a physical therapist for a shoulder problem. He convinced her, by showing her information on Google, that he needed to touch a point in her vagina in order to cure her. He ended up inserting a vibrator in her vagina. “When he asked me to kneel down and take a dog posture, finally something clicked for me and I left. My mother did not believe me, and when she finally did, she went to confront him, but he denied everything. Please help me. Now I have nightmares. I don’t even let my dad approach me. And I want to report him, the therapist, but I don’t know how.”

I was able to refer her to Themis [www. mujeresjuristasthemis.org], an association of women lawyers that provides legal pro bono services to victims.


  1. Hello,
    I had the privilege of seeing your film and the honor of your presence at Westchester Community College last week. I had wanted to speak with you following the film but because of my feelings I was carrying guilt of my own story due to its irony. I am a victim of sex abuse as both child and adult however the roles of speaking out were reversed as I grew up. When it had happened at the age of 7 by a close family friend, I went straight to family and authorities since my mother was a police officer. I was raised very street smart and knew what was going on and that it was wrong so I escaped before molestation turned into rape. After long court tv appearances, being recorded on video and constant therapy I disassociated from what had happened to me thinking I had moved passed it. He only received a six month sentence but 20 years later after becoming a drug addict with mental illnesses due to what had happened, I found out that authorities had followed the man and his father due to my case proceeding the trial. It turned out they were both organized and running a child pornography ring on the internet and I was not the only victim. When I was older due to the trauma of my childhood experience with sex abuse, when it happened again I didn’t report it. Eventually due to my drug addiction situations caused me to be abused worse than I had been as a child or teen because the feelings of being worthless played a big part. Your film helped me realize that keeping these things in are not beneficial and I have made peace within myself that no abuse is acceptable no matter the circumstances. So thank you for your work and I admire your own honesty while trying to help others!

  2. Dear Diana,
    First a huge apology for getting back to you so late. I was just alerted of your message and only now I could get to it. Thank you so much for your kind words, but especially, thank you so very much for sharing your story here. I really feel for all the suffering and the trauma you have survived. Addiction was just a way for you to try to cope with the deep wound the sexual abuse left in you. None of it is your fault. My humble suggestion is that you give yourself a huge hug, that you clear yourself from any guilt, self-pity, etc. You should feel proud for getting this far, for reporting the crime, for seeking healing through therapy, for continuing to want to learn more, for coming to our screening. Our film is not easy to watch, yet it empowered you, that warms my heart. You can email me at info [at] sandsofsilence.org if you want to chat further. Warmly, Chelo

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