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Defending Our Lives

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Defending Our Lives is an Oscar® winning documentary about the magnitude and severity of domestic violence in this country. This educational video features four women imprisoned for killing their batterers and their terrifying personal testimonies.

Domestic violence is the single greatest cause of injury to women in America—more than muggings, rapes, and car accidents combined. A woman in the United States is more likely to be killed by her partner than by any other assailant. Sarah Buel, a district attorney, outlines the problem throughout the video - not merely as a member of the criminal justice system, but as a former battered woman. Every person in this documentary is an expert; each has experienced first-hand the terror of domestic violence.

The women in the documentary are members of 'Battered Women Fighting Back!' a grass-roots organization dedicated to exposing domestic violence as a critical human rights violation threatening the majority of the population: women and children. 'Battered Women Fighting Back!' began as a prison support group for battered women who had killed their abusers, and with the support of human rights activist, Stacey Kabat, developed into a community-based task force of over 100 volunteers.

Each of these women tells her own horrific tale of beatings, rape and torture at the hands of her husband or boyfriend. They talk of being stalked, harassed and threatened with death, particularly after attempting to leave their abusive partners. They all testify to the failure of the criminal justice system to protect victims of domestic violence—from unenforced restraining orders, to reluctant law enforcement officials, to the courts' refusal to accept the special nature of their defense. And each woman's frightening account of the cycle of violence resonates with the stories of battered women everywhere.

These women were forced to defend their lives, and this documentary captures the cruel irony of putting them behind bars once they have finally escaped their abusers. They have chosen to share their stories, hoping to inspire creative strategies for ending this violence.

"Defending Our Lives" aims to educate people about domestic violence and to spur legislative and judicial reform. It is appropriate for people working on any aspect of this issue, including general education, legal reform, police training, battered women advocacy, counseling, prosecution and defense, human rights activism and community education.

What they say about "Defending Our Lives"

"I have used this film as a training tool since I started my advocacy days. Despite new options and a plethora of more recently developed training materials available—none are as relevant and powerful. This documentary frames the issues as it must be: a human rights crisis. We cannot afford to lose sight of what is highlighted in this film. Anyone following current events knows that the issue of domestic violence has not been "solved" - we have a long way to go despite our achievements."
Karen McCall, Education Coordinator, A Safe Place NH

"I am so thankful that someone has finally captured the horror of these women's lives on film. This is a 'must-see' film for every legislator in this country."
Senator Suzi Oppenheimer, Chair, Democratic Task Force on Women's Issues New York State Senate

Powerful and moving. Perfect for my classes. Every lawyer, doctor, judge, and DA should see this film."
Jay L. Pottinger, Clinical Professor of Law, Yale Law School

Awards and Screenings

  • OSCAR, Academy Award® for Best Documentary Short
  • Outstanding Independent Film of the Year, New England Film & Video Festival
  • First Prize, Columbus International Film Festival
  • The Pass Award, National Council on Crime & Delinquency
  • First Place, National Council on Family Relations
  • Silver Plaque, Chicago International Film Festival


  • Denver International Film Festival
  • Seattle International Film Festival
  • Edinburgh International Film Festival
  • Leipzig International Festival of Documentary & Animation
  • Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
  • Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival
  • Women in the Director's Chair International Film and Video Festival


  • U.S. Senate
  • U.S. House of Representatives
  • State Legislatures
  • State Attorney Generals' Offices
  • Executive Offices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • The United Nations
  • Museum of Modern Art
  • Museum of Fine Arts
  • National College of District Attorneys Conference
  • The American Bar Association

Ordering Information

Running time: 30 minutes.
Available in Spanish.
Price: $185
The price includes public performance rights ( you can show it to a class or at a public event.)
Go to the order page.

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