Panel Discussion On Domestic Violence Set For Sunday At Sag Harbor Cinema

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Advocate and survivor Nicole Behrens will be part of the panel discussion on Sunday.

There is perhaps no subject as taboo or difficult to talk about as intimate partner violence. Ruled by fear or shame, victims will go to great lengths to keep abuse a secret, even from a therapist or trusted friends and family members. Often, the public never knows someone is suffering — or only finds out when it’s too late to help.

The first step to breaking that cycle of secrecy, and to giving victims the courage to speak up, is to talk about the problem openly, and publicly. As part of that effort, The Retreat and the Sag Harbor Cinema have joined forces to host a panel discussion on Sunday afternoon called “Behind Closed Doors: A Frank Discussion About Abuse In Our Community.”

The discussion comes at a timely moment. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the recent death of Long Islander Gabby Petito has also shined a larger spotlight on the issue of intimate partner violence in recent weeks.

Domestic violence can take many forms, both physical and emotional, but it is defined by one person dominating another through coercive control, threats, or abuse. National statistics cite 1 in 4 women, and 1 in 7 men, will be in an abusive relationship at some point in their life, and those statistics do not abide by race, class, or socioeconomic metrics.

Guests at the panel discussion, which starts at 4 p.m. on Sunday, October 24, at the cinema, will learn about the signs of abuse and what they can do. The discussion will also aim to shine a light on issues prevalent in the local community.

The panel will feature domestic violence advocate and survivor Nicole Behrens, Retreat attorney Susan Bereche, Retreat Prevention Education Director Helen Atkinson-Barnes, SPARK Case Manager Viviana Bishop, and Minvera Perez, executive director of OLA, a local Latino advocacy group.

The discussion will be moderated by Diana Diamond, a New York City-based psychologist and psycho-analyst who, over the course of 30 years in practice, has specialized in issues related to gender, sexuality, and women’s life cycle transitions like marriage, divorce, transition to motherhood, and aging. In addition to practicing in the city, Diamond is also in the process of opening a practice in Sag Harbor, where she has lived part-time for decades. She works with the Personality Disorders Institute at Weill Cornell Medical College, and also teaches at the New School for Social Research, and has recently published a book on the treatment of narcissistic personality disorder. Diamond also serves on the Sag Harbor Cinema board.

The panel discussion on domestic violence is part of a broader effort by the cinema and its director of educational components, Bill Collage, to use film as a way to deal with broader social and psychological issues in the community that would draw people to the cinema. At the conclusion of the panel discussion on Sunday, the cinema will have a special one-time screening of Gaslight, the 1944 American psychological thriller film directed by George Cukor and starring Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten, and Angela Lansbury, in her film debut. It centers around a young woman whose husband slowly manipulates her into believing that she is descending into insanity, serving as the origin for the modern day vernacular “gaslighting,” defined as a form of manipulation that occurs in abusive relationships, where the abuser makes the target question their judgments and reality. The film will be shown at 7 pm.

What she has witnessed over the years in her work has made Diamond determined to be part of events like Sunday’s panel discussion.

“We have to have greater public awareness,” she said. “I see this panel as a form of psycho-education, acknowledging that there are support networks, and just making sure that, as citizens, we become more aware.

“I think bringing these stories to light is really important,” she added.

Tickets for the panel discussion are free, but limited. Reservations are required through sagharborcinema.org. Attendees must show proof of vaccination and masks must be worn inside of the cinema. To learn more, visit allagainstabuse.org and click on events, follow @allagainstabuse online, or call 631-329-4398.

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