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Terror at Home: Domestic Violence in America

Whatever cynical tendency there may be to mock Lifetime's campaign against domestic violence -- it's certainly an issue with no "pro" side -- it mostly melts away watching this sober documentary, which the channel is presenting commercial-free.

Whatever cynical tendency there may be to mock Lifetime’s campaign against domestic violence — it’s certainly an issue with no “pro” side — it mostly melts away watching this sober documentary, which the channel is presenting commercial-free. Beginning with a 911 call and ending with a tombstone, filmmaker Maryann De Leo (“Chernobyl Heart”) exhibits restraint in between — tackling the problem by talking to women of various ethnic and regional backgrounds, as well as those seeking to help them, regarding their ordeals.

Full of useful if sometimes dubious-sounding information and statistics (nearly a third of women report being physically or sexually abused?), De Leo showcases different women who have been beaten by spouses and boyfriends. Some are shown going through court proceedings seeking protective orders, and others confront friends and relatives asking the inevitable question — namely, why did they silently endure it?

Somewhat incongruously exec produced by Michael Bolton (who provides an original song for the occasion), it’s the kind of advocacy programming that doesn’t undermine its arguments through shrillness or excessive scare tactics. Instead, De Leo lets women tell their own stories, discussing their shame and fear, just as those in law enforcement express understandable frustration with the common reluctance to seek help.

Lifetime launched the expansive “Stop Violence Against Women” program in 2001, and whatever the channel’s shortcomings, it’s a worthy endeavor.

Of course, targeting women with this kind of programming and outreach only addresses half of the problem. Maybe next year, the special should air on ESPN and Spike, too.

Terror at Home: Domestic Violence in America

Lifetime, Sun. April 10, 11 p.m.

Production: Produced by Downtown Documentaries in association with Passion Films. Executive producer, Michael Bolton; producer-director, Maryann De Leo; co-producer, Vibha Bakshi.

Crew: Camera, De Leo; editors, Flavia Fontes, De Leo; music, Brian Tyler. 60 MIN.

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