Last summer I remember hearing a bit about the Monique Baza story, if memory serves me right the local news was covering her decision to testify in the court hearing and her decision to be very public about her kidnapping and sexual assault. I remember wanting, but not wanting, to follow-up about this story. Certainly it would be difficult to be in her position, and it would be hard to read and learn more about the details of her case.
I obviously moved on, something that I am sort of ashamed to realize and admit now as her story has come across my radar again. This summer there is more news about Monique Baza, in the form of a docudrama film that is being produced to really raise awareness & provoke change about the problem of sexual assault in Guåhan. I have watched the concept trailer for the project and was quite shocked to learn the staggering statistics about the rapes per capita in Guåhan (5 times the number in New York City!). Understanding that rape and sexual assault tends to go un/underreported–I am still shocked by this fact and must grapple with the idea that this only signals that the actual numbers are much, much higher.
I was thinking about this project yesterday, and am going to now look into how I can support the effort to make this film a reality (you can make a contribution here). I think it has the potential to help expose the problems of the judicial system and also raise awareness about an issue that definitely suffers from silences within the local community.
Certainly, there are groups and people that are working to address this problem both here and elsewhere. But, I am also compelled to think that folks living in diaspora might be able to make a real difference by using their resources and privilege to support efforts at creating structural change. I still have a lot to learn about the services and resources that exist here, and I hope to learn more by asking those who have been doing this work about how they can best be supported in their efforts.
I am also thinking about this film project right now, because I received a text earlier tonight from Chris who told me he left a 4th of July party to help make sure another camp staff person got home safely (someone at the party was making them feel uncomfortable and creeped out). Unfortunately, I was not at all surprised to get a text like this because I know that the debate community has many “creepers” who prey on women in the activity. But, also very fortunately, I know that there are many people out there who work to trust, advocate, and support those in need. I think that the goals of this film are heading in the right direction. And, I can’t help but think how the issue of sexual assault and violence is so prevalent in indigenous and continually colonized communities. My mind is also jumping to the problems of sexual assault in heavily militarized places, and I am weaving connections between the Monique Baza story and other folks’ stories around the world whom have either spoke up or remained silent–the pervasiveness of rape culture must be challenged. This project is worth supporting in any way that people can, because it is working toward solutions through awareness and action.
I hope that by next summer, I can say that I know more of the facts about the situation in Guåhan and the existing resources. I hope that I can make a contribution to this project and eventually be able to watch this film. Because, difficult as it may be, it is extremely important for us to be educated and use this knowledge to pursue justice.