PBS next month will air a two-part series by acclaimed filmmaker David Sutherland that shines a light on the issues of sexual violence on Indian reservations. With the reauthorization of VAWA — which extends certain domestic violence protections to Indians attacked by non-Native perpetrators — headlining the news, this important documentary, Kind Hearted Woman, demonstrates the real-life trouble and hardships facing Robin Charboneau, a 32-year-old divorced single mother and Oglala Sioux woman living on North Dakota’s Spirit Lake Reservation. Sutherland follows Charboneau over three years as she struggles to raise her two children, further her education and heal herself from the wounds of sexual abuse she suffered as a child. Echoing her own abuse, Robin discovers that her husband has sexually abused their daughter.
RAINN is partnering with PBS and the producers of Kind Hearted Woman to bring attention to Indians who are victims of sexual violence.
While the documentary takes place on an Indian reservation, the issues revealed in the film are all too prevalent in communities throughout the country. RAINN’s partnership will connect audiences with the National Sexual Assault Hotline and provide insight about childhood sexual abuse and sexual violence. Information from RAINN about how to react to the disclosure of sexual violence and tips to protect children from sexual abuse will also be provided at special community screenings.
In her first major public presentation about her own childhood abuse, Charboneau said: “The last thing that I need to say that I still struggle with is not just how to build a family and to be a mom, but … also the boundaries, the boundaries within a relationship. Nobody ever taught me how to be a wife or a mother, because it was married men who were molesting me. So I still have a long way to go. I still have a lot of things to learn. But it’s just one step at a time.”
“As in my other films profiling rural poverty,” says Sutherland, “in Kind Hearted Woman, I was trying to reach out to another forgotten corner of the American landscape, this time to put a face on a Native family so that we could see them close-up with all the detail that illuminates the rich reality of their lives.”
Kind Hearted Woman is a special co-presentation of FRONTLINE and Independent Lens. The programs will air Monday and Tuesday, April 1 and 2, at 9 PM ET on PBS. Check your local listings here.