Private Violence


Private Violence is a feature-length documentary film and audience engagement campaign that explores a simple, but deeply disturbing fact of American life: the most dangerous place for a woman in America is her own home. Every day in the US, at least four women are murdered by abusive (and often, ex) partners. The knee-jerk response is to ask: “why doesn’t she just leave?” Private Violence shatters the brutality of this logic. Through the eyes of two survivors – Deanna Walters, a mother who seeks justice for the crimes committed against her at the hands of her estranged husband, and Kit Gruelle, an advocate who seeks justice for all women – we bear witness to the complicated and complex realities of intimate partner violence. Their experiences challenge entrenched and misleading assumptions, providing a lens into a world that is largely invisible; a world we have locked behind closed doors with our silence, our laws, and our lack of understanding. Kit’s work immerses us in the lives of several other women as they attempt to leave their abusers, setting them on a collision course with institutions that continuously and systematically fail them, often blaming victims for the violence they hope to flee. The same society that encourages women to seek true love shows them no mercy when that love turns dangerous. As Deanna transforms from victim to survivor, Private Violence begins to shape powerful, new questions that hold the potential to change our society: “Why does he abuse?” “Why do we turn away?” “How do we begin to build a future without domestic violence? www.privateviolence. com

Cindy Waitt met Kit Gruelle, in Del Mar, California in 2005, when Kit was originally planning to gather footage for a documentary on the history of the anti battering movement.   In 2007, Kit met director Cynthia Hill in their native North Carolina.  Cynthia, in the process of following Kit through her time as an advocate, began to see a different film emerging, the story of advocates and the women they assist as they navigate the difficult waters of the legal system, a system still challenging for women trying to leave dangerous and sometimes life threatening relationships.

These two mainstays of the “Private Violence” feature film and documentary slowly added the stories of these women, including Deanna Walters, who nearly died at the hands of her abusive ex husband. With Kit serving as guide and narrator, the film speaks to the age old question. “why doesn’t she just leave?”

The film was seven years in the making.  Cindy Waitt said, “ Our first WIVP supported film, “Bully”, took about two years from start to launch at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2011, and the funding came in quickly once it got going.  That didn’t surprise me, as bullying had become a high profile topic, and that story needed to be told.  But it was a tougher go for “Private Violence”.  That didn’t surprise me either.  The title of the film tells why.  It’s something we still tend to keep in the dark, hidden away.”

An uphill battle, the film did eventually bring on other vital supporters, including feminist activist and author Gloria Steinem, who joined the project in 2009, Chicken and Egg pictures, Fledgling Fund, Candescent Films, Regina Scully and many others.

The film was purchased by HBO documentaries prior to it’s launch at the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2014. It received the Candescent Award, and the True/False “True Life” award, as did “Bully” in 2012.


The film premiered to broad acclaim on HBO October 20, 2014 and was nominated for a News and Documentary Emmy in 2015.


“Private Violence… shows with shocking clarity that the worst of such cases rarely involve just a single punch, and that the problem is far more entrenched than a trending-on-Twitter moment makes it seem.” (Neil Genzlinger, New York Times)

“A haunting new documentary on domestic violence has a simple goal: to stop people from asking the question ‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’ once and for all.” – Huffington Post

“’Private Violence’ makes painfully clear the emotional and legal hurdles battered women endure just to feel safe again in or outside the home. Brisk and disturbing, it should be an eye-opener to anyone whose understanding of domestic violence amounts to the ignorant suggestion, ‘Why didn’t you leave?'” – Los Angeles Times

“‘Private Violence’ proposes no easy solutions. But maybe, just maybe, we will reach a point where the law is on the side of the victim — which is always the best way to stop bullies, because what all bullies hate most is a fair fight.” – New York Daily News

“HBO’s new feature-length documentary, ‘Private Violence’, directed by Cynthia Hill, has been over a decade in the making, but its release could not come at a more opportune time.” –

“Hill’s moving documentary, Private Violence, intimately reveals the stories of two women: Deanna Walters, who transforms from victim to survivor, and Kit Gruelle, who advocates for justice… Nominated for the prestigious Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival the documentary reveals the stigma of ‘shame’ and ‘helplessness’ for victims.” – Standard Examiner

“It took longer for me to get through Private Violence, a feature-length profile of an advocate for battered women that airs on HBO tonight at 9 p.m., than any TV documentary I’ve seen. The filmmakers should consider this a compliment.” — Matt Zoller Seitz


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