'Spotlight' to get anti-abuse message at Australian screenings

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Kate Stanton

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Anatomy of a Scene: Spotlight

Director Tom McCarthy narrates a sequence from Spotlight starring Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo.

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Australia's leading helpline for adult survivors of child abuse will pre-empt screenings of Spotlight with a short video aimed at moviegoers affected by the Oscar-nominated film's recounting of sexual abuse by Catholic priests.

Cinemas across the country will air a one-minute video highlighting the prevalence of child abuse in Australia.

The video was developed as part of the 2014 '1 in 4' campaign by Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA). It shows four men around a barbecue and notes that one may have experienced abuse or trauma as a child.

The crusading cast from the drama <i>Spotlight</i>.

The crusading cast from the drama Spotlight.

Cathy Kezelman, ASCA president, says it is important for people watching the film to be aware of local support services that are available.

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"I certainly feel that survivors in the audience — and I include myself in that — could be really affected by the film. I do think it would be preferable to pre-empt those feelings and certainly offer some pathways if you're feeling upset."

While it is common for news media organisations to include trigger warnings or contact details for support services alongside particularly distressing content, it is rare for dramatic films to take similar precautions.

The ad doesn't offer any contact details beyond a website address as it was developed for an earlier campaign; but Dr Kezelman says she hopes it alerts people to the organisation and to the idea that child abuse extends beyond the Catholic Church.

"We've just got an opportunity here and we're going to use what we can," she says. "Hopefully it does raise further awareness. Hopefully people will search the website and find out how to get help."

Spotlight, which opened last week in Australia, details the Boston Globe's 2002 investigation into the Catholic Church's cover-up of systemic sexual abuse by its priests.

The film focuses on the reporters' efforts to blow the lid on what turned into a worldwide scandal for the Catholic Church. But it also features the journalists' conversations with survivors, who recount details of sexual assault by priests.

Mark Vincent Healy, an Irish survivor and advocate, wrote last week for The Journal, an Irish news site, that he knows of a survivor who saw the film and had to leave early because it was too "triggering for him" — even though the film does not dramatise any specific instances of abuse.

Mr Healy says that he thinks Spotlight is an important film. But he would like to see "responsible screenings", accompanied by links to resources for people who want to know more. "Better to err on the side of caution," he says.

This story originally appeared on The Citizen. Read the full piece here