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More than one in four women in the United States are survivors of domestic violence, but the stigma attached to it keeps many from sharing their experiences. A new documentary series is hoping to bring the issue into the mainstream by exploring how survivors heal.

Two filmmakers are producing a documentary series called Scars Unseen that features men and women who have overcome domestic violence. One is a yoga teacher who fled to Santa Monica from Yemen, where she lived through two civil wars, arranged marriages and abuse. A local lawyer helped her seek asylum and she turned to yoga as a way to heal, eventually becoming a certified instructor and teaching classes in Santa Monica, said Scars Unseen co-director Meredith Yinger.

“Maha is inspired by the community she has found in yoga,” Yinger said. “She found it so therapeutic to be surrounded by like-minded people there to support her. Seeing that change in people she teaches is rewarding to her.”

Scars Unseen will explore how six people have found their own ways of healing the wounds of domestic violence. For Maha, it might be yoga, while for another subject, Trish, it was starting her own nonprofit, Safe Passage, to help women and children escape domestic violence situations.

“Maha went to therapy but reached a plateau and didn’t feel it was continuously helping, and that’s where she found yoga,” Yinger said. “Trish healed by giving back and helping other people.”

Yinger said the film, which production company She TV Media has been developing for eight months and will film in April, will present multiple perspectives on domestic violence, including how it intersects with the legal system and its psychological effects. Scars Unseen will interview a former abuser as well as abuse survivors, she added.

“We’re doing the whole spectrum in hopes this will open up the conversation, destigmatize victimhood and address things previous projects haven’t addressed,” she said. “We’re trying to see how we can see the signs, understand the behavior and how to prevent it and address it.”

She and co-director Natalie Perez are also incorporating multiple perspectives on the issue by including women from marginalized groups in front of and behind the camera, she said.

Yinger said Scars Unseen differs from previous films about domestic violence because it focuses on how survivors continue with their lives after abuse.

“We’re highlighting the more triumphant side of it rather than the gruesome details of the actual abuse,” she said. “It’s amazing what people are capable of overcoming and that will be our main focus.”

The film is raising money through Seed & Spark through Thursday, Feb. 28 and has raised $42,400 with a goal of $50,000. Scars Unseen is also a sponsored project of Film Independent, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that hosts the Independent Spirit Awards and the LA Film Festival, and Loyola Marymount University’s Incubator Lab. Donations can be made to the film through Film Independent after Feb. 28.

madeleine@smdp.com

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