Campus: Humboldt State University -- October 6, 1999

'Shifting The Paradigm' Asks What Will It Take

With a Humboldt lens, film focuses on changes in approach to domestic violence

What will it take to establish zero tolerance for domestic violence?

That question has been framed in "Shifting the Paradigm: From Control to Respect," a documentary film created by Humboldt State University students and theater arts Associate Professor Ann Alter.

Featuring Humboldt County residents, legal experts and legislative advocates, the film documents what Alter calls "the battered women's movement on the cusp of change as women and men discuss what it will take to reach the ultimate goal of zero tolerance."

The documentary weaves together historical, legal, social, and mythical perspectives to create a cinematic tapestry depicting efforts and attitudes that shape America's approach to domestic violence. One scene chronicles an art-therapy training session on the balance of power in a relationship --- and how it can change.

The voices are heard against the visual backdrop of home fronts, idyllic reflections, city sidewalk scenes, and affection among friends and in families.

Several long-time, local advocates and activists are featured, including Bonnie MacGregor, former director of Humboldt Women for Shelter; Sheri Johnson, the domestic violence prevention coordinator for the county's Public Health Department; John Gai, a professor of social work at Humboldt State and family therapist; Ken Nakamura, also a Humboldt professor and a member of the county's Human Rights Commission; and Madeline McMurray, a psychotherapist and religious studies instructor. Victims voices are also heard.

In the film, Johnson offers that some research found that 80 percent of the homicides resulting from domestic violence occurred in homes that police had visited at least five times previously. "There's only so far we can go in criminal justice and criminal justice response," and the police and the courts agree, she says. The problem needs to be addressed also fundamentally as a health issue, with a "prevention model."

According to Alter, "The legal right of a husband to beat his wife was not successfully challenged by women until the 1870s. It was not until the 1960s and the feminist movement that the first women's shelter was created."

In the wake of the O.J. Simpson murder trial came the first state funding of community domestic violence prevention programs, said Alter. Previously, efforts were aimed at basic emergency shelters, she said.

"'Shifting the Paradigm' documents this critical transitional period of the battered women's movement in California," said Alter. "Through conversations, the film explores the roots of our present culture of violence in the home, offering ideas and inspiration that reaffirm the importance of the individual in creating a future where relationships are based on partnership and mutual respect.

"It asks: What kind of future do we want? How are we going to create that together?"

Among those with answers are Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl, who has authored 38 domestic violence bills signed into law; Boalt Law School Professor Nancy Lemon; Sharon Turner, an international community development worker; and Allan Creighton, co-founder of the Oakland Men's project and Men Overcoming Violence.

The 41-minute film premiered Sept. 12 at the Minor Theater in Arcata. It was later featured at state-sponsored conference on domestic violence held in Costa Mesa. It was funded by several Humboldt State offices and the state's Department of Health Services.

For details about the film, call Alter at (707) 826-5495 or email

Public Affairs Offices/Campus News
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