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The Independent Critic

Johnna Janis, Dr. Cheryl Arutt, Svava Brooks, Erik Castillo, Al Chesley, Dr. Kristen Cole, Vincent J. Felitti, Tara Johansson, Erin Merryn, Bill Murray, Sheri L. Oleson-Duncan, Walter Phillips, Sarah Rice, Angela Rose, Robin Sax, and Matthew Sandusky
Johnna Janis, Sergio Myers
86 Mins.
First Run Features

 "Invisible Scars" Hits DVD with First Run Features 

It can be dangerous for a filmmaker to turn their own life experiences into a documentary. It can be even more dangerous when that life experience involves something as traumatic as childhood sexual abuse, the subject matter at the core of the First Run Features feature documentary Invisible Scars. Co-directed by Johnna Janis and Sergio Myers, the documentary tells the story of Janis, who reveals the abuse she suffered as a child. Now, armed with a new self-awareness, she explores the tools and resources available to help male and female survivors like her overcome the effects of childhood sexual abuse.

Janis states "As a survivor of child sexual abuse, I spent many years withdrawn, struggling with the psychological repercussions of my abuse and ultimately, was a prisoner of my own silence. That was until one woman shared her personal story with me, and urged me to face the trauma of my childhood. "Invisible Scars" is the story of my healing journey."

Invisible Scars is an open and honest and emotionally resonant film, though it also approaches the subject of childhood sexual abuse intelligently with tremendous insight. The truth itself is harrowing and the basic statistics well known - one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the age of 18. There are approximateily 40 million adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the U.S. alone and some statistics say that between 87-92% of victims will be familiar with their perpetrator.

Invisible Scars picked up an Award of Merit from IndieFest, was a Remi Winner at Worldfest - Houston and other prizes along its festival route before being picked up by indie distributor First Run Features. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and author myself, I found Janis's film more of a primer in the area of sexual abuse. It's most likely to be effective in reaching out to unspoken survivors and those in their healing journeys for whom such encouragement and openly expressed hope will be absolutely vital.

To their credit, Janis and Myers brought in a wealth of experts including clinicians, advocates and survivors themselves. The presence of these individuals helps to balance out the material and keeps the film from becoming an out of balance effort that could make it less effective.

The DVD release includes extended interviews and a filmmaker biography, fairly basic extras yet ones that should please fans of the film and provide extra valuable information.

For more information on the film, visit the First Run Features website where you can pick up the DVD and also easily visit the original film website that includes a number of resources for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic