By: Kaila Bhullar, SFU Student

From exposing harsh realities and implications of Indian cultural influences (in both tradition and media) to openly sharing firsthand experiences of sexual abuse, Baljit Sangra’s Because We Are Girls is an objective and completely raw new film. It bravely opens up a conversation about the highly stigmatized topic of child rape and the retraumatizing process of dealing with the justice system. On Thursday, June 6, the film was screened by Reel Causes at SFU Woodward’s for an evening of film and open discussion.

The evening began with a warm introduction explaining the goal of Reel Causes films and events: to encourage positive social change around the world, and to create a safe platform to talk about difficult subjects like abuse and trauma.

Because We Are Girls centers itself around the collective experience of the Pooni sisters Jeeti, Kira, and Salakshana in their journey to report and reconcile childhood sexual abuse. It follows them as they deal with their shared trauma and how it has affected every generation within their family. It grapples with the highs and lows of the after-effects of dealing with trauma and how living with heavy burdens and secrets have damaging consequences personally and communally as we move through life.

Through the three sisters’ brave sharing of their compelling stories, we see that they are survivors. They show us that we should never let go of hope, that we are capable of persevering through anything despite how vulnerable and alone it may make us feel, and that above all we must never stay silent. The sisters together remind us of the importance of community — that healing does not exist in finding validation through the justice system but rather in coming to peace with ourselves and learning to move forward from, and with, trauma.

Looking around the audience at the end of the evening, I could barely see a dry eye. After an emotional and praise-filled Q&A with the sisters, Baljit Sangra, and Family Services of Greater Vancouver representatives Gregg Taylor and Lillian Chen, we are left with the tragic current statistics of sexual abuse. A third of Canadian women and a sixth of Canadian men will experience sexual abuse at some point in their life, and 75% of times victims will know the perpetrator. The film and Q&A was a wonderful discussion about healing that gave us hope for the future without forgetting the long way we still have to go.

I would highly recommend this film, but due to its sensitive and raw content, I would give a strong content warning and recommend seeing it with a close friend or family member. The film opens our eyes to the very real and upsetting impact that sexual abuse has on the lives of its survivors, their families, and their communities. It reminds us that there is much work to be done moving forward to create a safer world for girls, women, and all those affected by sexual abuse.

Balijit Singra, Salakshana Pooni, Kira Pooni, and Jeeti Pooni after the Q&A with Reel Causes. Image Kaila Bhullar / The Peak

Because We Are Girls will be playing at the Vancity Theatre from July 5–11, with a Q&A with the filmmaker taking place at the July 5 and 6 and screenings. Tickets are $11 for students and can be purchased online or at the door.

If you or someone you know is struggling, you can reach out to SFU’s Health and Counselling services (including their new My SSP initiative), the SFSS Women’s Centre, Out on Campus, or Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW) who also have a 24-hour crisis line. You can also use this list of Reduced-Cost Counselling Options in Vancouver for affordable and effective help.