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These Women Fought Back Against Their Abusers—And Were Incarcerated for It

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A woman with a concerned look on her face is shot in low light in a still from a documentary.
Kim DaDou Brown, a formerly incarcerated survivor of domestic violence, in a still from 'And So I Stayed.' ('And So I Stayed'/Grit Pictures LLC)

The U.N. has called it “the shadow pandemic“: there’s been a notable but as-yet difficult to quantify increase in intimate partner violence over the last two years, according to experts, most likely due to a combination of mental health issues, income loss and isolation.

It’s against this backdrop that filmmakers Natalie Pattillo and Daniel A. Nelson (the latter a San Francisco State University alum) made And So I Stayed, a documentary about how the U.S. justice system treats survivors of domestic violence, and what happens to the people who are incarcerated, separated from their children and otherwise made to pay incredibly steep prices for fighting back against their abusers.

The film follows three women, including Kim DaDou Brown, a formerly incarcerated survivor and activist who served 17 years in prison for killing her abuser in self-defense. Brown played a key role in passing New York’s Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, which allows a court to resentence a survivor of sexual, psychological or physical abuse.

For co-director Pattillo, the topic is an intensely personal one: a close family member was killed by an abusive boyfriend in 2010.

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“As a survivor and woman of color, I believe that our film can uplift survivors in a culture where they are disbelieved and villainized rather than protected,” said Pattillo in a statement, describing the trauma-informed work that was necessary to build trust with the film’s subjects. “I believe it is my personal duty to not just make this film, but to make a searing, indelible impact on everyone who engages with it.”

‘And So I Stayed’ screens at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco on Tuesday, April 12, at 6pm. Through a partnership with the Bay Area nonprofit Five Keys, Home Free, local formerly incarcerated survivors will speak following the screening. Details here

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