Documentary from UNT Mayborn professor features efforts to reduce domestic violence in rural Texas counties

Tuesday, February 15, 2022 - 08:37
Staley Heatly, district attorney for Texas’ 46th Judicial District
Staley Heatly, district attorney for Texas’ 46th Judicial District

What: Screening of Beyond Conviction, a 30-minute documentary produced by Thorne Anderson, Mayborn Endowed Chair for Narrative and Multimedia Storytelling in UNT’s Frank W. and Sue Mayborn School of Journalism

When: 6-7:30 p.m. Feb. 24

Where: Lyceum (Room 226) in the UNT University Union, 1155 Union Circle, Denton

To Attend: Event is free and open to the public. Journalists interested in attending the event should contact Heather Noel at heather.noel@unt.edu or 940-369-8218. 

BACKGROUND:

Beyond Conviction is a documentary shot, edited and directed by Thorne Anderson, an associate professor in the Mayborn School of Journalism, with help by UNT alumnus and Houston-based filmmaker Spike Johnson, who served as second camera on the project. Current Mayborn graduate student Hope Alvarez also served as a researcher for the film.

The “solutions journalism” film, commissioned by Independent Television Services, offers an in-depth look into the lives of victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse, as well as insights into the paths to reform and new avenues to help victims heal and perpetrators receive effective treatment.

Beyond Conviction blends interviews with verité observation to immerse viewers into the daily life of district attorney Staley Heatly, who serves three rural counties (Foard, Hardeman and Wilbarger) near Wichita Falls. Heatly has taken a two-pronged approach to reduce domestic violence and related incarceration by reforming the criminal prosecution chain from the first 911 call through trial and by founding the Texoma Alliance to Stop Abuse to aid victims and rehabilitate batterers.

In addition to following Heatly’s work, the film provides a look into a batterers’ group counseling session, a field mission to reach a woman at risk of domestic violence, and an intimate counseling where EMDR, a novel eye-movement treatment, is used to treat a domestic violence survivor’s post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It takes time and patience to build trust with people, and we really got lucky with the people who agreed to let us follow them around and into some really sensitive situations,” Anderson said. “Heatly doesn’t just want to be a prosecutor — he wants to be a problem solver, and he’s willing to think outside the walls of the courtroom to make that happen.”

The Feb. 24 event is designed to unite and spark conversations between people working within journalism, documentary filmmaking, criminal justice, social work and other areas relating to intimate partner violence. Hatch Visuals, a student-run photography agency that operates in the Mayborn School of Journalism, is hosting the event.

Following the screening, a panel will include discussion between key characters from the film, the filmmakers, and UNT experts in criminal justice and social work.

Panelists include:

  • Staley Heatly, district attorney for Texas’ 46th Judicial District (featured in the film)
  • Rachel Lira, executive director for the Texoma Alliance to Stop Abuse (featured in the film)
  • Thorne Anderson, associate professor and Mayborn Endowed Chair for Narrative and Multimedia Storytelling in UNT’s Mayborn School of Journalism
  • Haley Zettler, assistant professor in UNT’s Department of Criminal Justice in the College of Health and Public Service
  • Cassidy Baker, clinical assistant professor and interim chair of the UNT Department of Social Work in the College of Health and Public Service

Panel moderator:

  • Dorothy Bland, professor in the Mayborn School of Journalism

 

ABOUT THE MAYBORN SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM
The Frank W. And Sue Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas prepares more than 1,000 undergraduate and graduate students for careers in Print/Digital Journalism, Broadcast Journalism, Advertising, Public Relations and Photojournalism. The Mayborn School counts 16 alums as winners or finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. Other alums hold top prizes in advertising and various strategic communications fields. Mayborn faculty bring more than 400 years of real-world experience to classrooms each day. This year, the Mayborn School is celebrating 75 years of formal journalism instruction at UNT. For more information, visit 
journalism.unt.edu.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108

Media Contacts:

Heather Noel
heather.noel@unt.edu
940-369-8218