By Chuck Haga
The PBS news program “Frontline” has produced a two-part documentary titled “Kind Hearted Woman” featuring Robin Charboneau, a 32-year-old divorced single mother who lived on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation.
The documentary follows her over three years, according to PBS, as she “struggles to raise her two children, further her education and heal herself from the wounds of sexual abuse she suffered as a child.”
The programs are to air April 1 and 2.
The tribe’s problems, especially allegations of sexual abuse of children and failure of authorities to investigate and prosecute sexual predators, already have received considerable regional and national attention.
The exposure has been promoted, welcomed or at least tolerated by some at Spirit Lake who have been critical of responses so far by tribal government, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs and FBI. Other tribal members have lamented the attention, however, arguing that it paints a false picture of conditions and efforts by the tribe to make improvements.
For more on the subject, see:
PBS Series exposes sexual abuse
There is little doubt that an upcoming PBS special, “Kind Hearted Woman” will cause controversy. For victims of sexual abuse, fear of repercussion arises when outing abuse by a family member. Victims worry they may break up their family. Should they protect the perpetrator? How does one deal with the shame of telling what happened? How can a victim ever trust again?
These questions and a multitude of others are addressed in the upcoming two-part series which follows Robin Poor Bear (identified as Robin Charboneau in the film) and her children through three years of their life. In that time, she overcomes addiction to alcohol, names her foster father and brothers who raped her repeatedly, faces corruption in the Spirit Lake Tribal Court during a custody battle, and encounters difficulties having a solid, romantic relationship.
Every challenge is compounded by raising her two children who have also been traumatized, particularly when Robin’s 13 year-old daughter reveals that she, too, has been molested by her own father.
The film pushes the viewer's boundaries and it is only when the emotional dust finally settles that Robin's real strength is revealed. It would be hard to imagine a more raw reality show, and in essence, that is what this is. The three years are never a re-enactment. Everything that happens in the film is in the moment. Fortunately, there is a happy ending as we see an empowered and renewed Robin as a survivor, no longer a victim. The co-production from Frontline and Independent Lens and acclaimed film maker David Southerland will air on PBS on April 1 and 2.
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