Stephen F. Austin State University

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Community invited to attend sexual assault symposium, be part of documentary

March 15, 2011 - Sylvia Bierschenk

NACOGDOCHES, TEXAS - His mother, ex-wife and daughter are all victims of separate sexual assaults, and now Stephen F. Austin State University cinematography graduate student Thomas Church is using his craft to create a documentary he hopes eventually will be able to help victims of such crimes.

The full-length documentary, "Talk About It," which is Church's Master of Fine Arts' thesis project, is scheduled for completion and distribution in November.

As part of the documentary, Church will be filming the symposium on sexual assault he is presenting at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 25, at The Cole Art Center @ The Old Opera House in downtown Nacogdoches. Church's daughter, Lora Church, will serve as the emcee.

The evening will begin with the 12-minute filmed interviews Church has conducted with his three family members. The audience will then be invited to ask questions of any of the panel members.

Participating on the panel are two representatives of the Family Crisis Center of East Texas: Assistant Director Diedra Ware James and Primary Care Coordinator Ashley Thompson, as well as Dr. Jerry Williams, chair of the SFA Department of Social and Cultural Analysis; and Jimmie Carlton, Church's ex-wife.

Church hopes East Texans will attend the symposium, not just because he needs an audience for this segment of his documentary, but because the subject matter is important and audience members can benefit from it.

"Our society treats victims of this crime differently than those of other crimes. We hide their names and give them special treatment in court, all in an effort to protect them," Church said. "But in the long run, the 'protection' continues to victimize them and encourages the rest of us not to talk about the crime."

In addition to his three family members, Church has conducted and filmed interviews with several other victims thus far.

"I've found that coming forward, acknowledging the experience, can be a very cathartic experience for the victims," Church explained. "Hopefully the completed documentary will raise awareness among victims, their friends and families, and the professionals who work with them, that it's okay--and even good--to 'talk about it.'"

Once the documentary is complete, Church plans to submit it to documentary festivals and hopefully distribute it to sexual assault centers around the country.

The Cole Art Center is located at 329 E. Main St.