Student documentary on intimate violence will support Project Horizon

“Intimate Violence” will play at Hull’s Drive-In on Oct. 25


Nolan Zunk, ‘22, co-directed Washington and Lee’s first feature film with assistant professor of theater Stephanie Sandberg. It will premiere this month. Tickets are available through the Hull’s Drive-In website. The Ringtum Phi conducted a Q&A with Zunk about his collaboration with local non-profit Project Horizon as part of his independent work major in film production:

Q: What is your documentary about?

A: “Intimate Violence” is a cinematic portrait of intimate partner violence, or domestic violence in modern day America that uses Rockbridge County as a case study.

Q: What does the term “intimate partner violence” mean, and is it different from “domestic violence”?

A: The term “intimate partner violence” is broadly accepted within the field, though most people know and use the term “domestic violence.” Some in the field even use the term “intimate partner terrorism.”

That’s because one of the shortcomings of the term “domestic violence” is that it implies less severity than other forms of violence. In many parts of the country, especially in rural communities, intimate partner violence is still seen as a “family problem” which should not require outside intervention or help.

Intimate partner violence also includes dating partners and non-romantic partners. It could encompass child abuse or include disabled individuals and their caretakers. Research shows individuals with disabilities experience higher rates of domestic violence than able bodied individuals.

Q:How did you first get involved in making this documentary?

A: I worked on two short documentaries in high school, so during my first year, I approached professor Shawn Paul Evans and Sandberg and asked them about summer opportunities in filmmaking.

They both recommended the summer research scholars program which is how this project was born.

Q: Has W&L ever produced a film like this?

A: “Intimate Violence” is the first feature length film W&L has produced, so it’s a pretty big deal and couldn’t have happened without Professor Sandberg and the school’s resources.

I hope this project is a stepping stone in expanding the film department here at W&L and creates a pattern of similarly interested students to find and use the school’s available resources and willingness to work with students to develop their interests.

Q: How did you begin working with Project Horizon?

A: I went through volunteer training in summer of 2019 where I learned what it means to be trauma-informed, spent time interviewing and got to know the staff.

Then, in March, when the administration failed to stop the spread of Coronavirus, I became the part time shelter manager before being employed as the community outreach specialist.

I still work as shelter manager once a week and work on outreach in K-12 schools, teaching kids about consent, bodily integrity, etc.

Q: What was the main goal of the film?

A: We wanted to create a comprehensive, well formed argument for shelters like Project Horizon as a way to increase awareness and promote the passage of the Violence Against Women’s Act which is currently sitting on Mitch Mcconnell’s desk, but might get another pass on November 3rd.

The film’s overall assertion is that a violence free society is possible and that there are actionable steps to get there including early education, beginning in school or before.

Q: How pervasive is this issue?

A: It’s an issue that affects all levels of society. One in four women will experience at least one violent relationship in their lifetime. One in five girls will experience one before leaving high school. We have to change the narrative that this is just a “women’s issue.” Domestic violence is not a women’s issue. If anything, it’s a men’s issue since the overwhelming majority of perpetrators are male.

Rachel Louise Snyder, author of “No Visible Bruises,” who was interviewed said, “Everything we face as a society is inherent and has crossover with domestic violence.”

Q: How does Project Horizon compare to other shelters nationally?

A: It’s definitely one of the best since many shelters and centers are not trauma informed, or in other words, built around the central idea of putting the victim and survivor first. Even 10 years ago this wasn’t standard practice in the field, but Project Horizon has been built on this tenet since its founding in 1982.

Q: What role does Project Horizon play in our local community?

A: Project Horizon is a very visible and active member of the Rockbridge community. They have a campus service coordinator who works with colleges nearby in the area, disabilities coordinators, underserved outreach coordinators. They have a fascinating model made to reach the broadest number of people possible and provide them the highest possible quality service.

Not everyone knows about it, but those that do know how much of a blessing it is to have in the community, especially compared centers in other communities of Lexington’s size.

Q: Will they provide services for Washington and Lee students?

A: Absolutely. Project Horizon has resources available for all college students in trouble. If someone has the question, “Was I raped last night?” They can go to Project Horizon to talk to a counselor.

(They have confidential resources for W&L students completely separate from the school’s Title IX office.)

Q: How can people access this documentary?

A: On Oct. 25, there will be a premier at Hull’s Drive-in Theater. Tickets will cost $100 a car, and all proceeds will go to Project Horizon. After that, ideally we’ll get it on a festival tour then onto a streaming service.

Q: If people are interested, how can they get involved with Project Horizon or work to fight against Domestic Violence?

A: People can donate money or items to the shelter or volunteer. More broadly, people can help by calling out bad behavior when they see it…When you see someone make a sexist comment, you have to say something in the moment. It’s uncomfortable, but you have to learn to live with that discomfort. These topics can’t be taboo.

Also, believe survivors. By default, believe them…It’s not your role to determine “the truth.” Believe by default. It can’t hurt, and it can only help – can only lead to empowering survivors.

Q: If someone is in or knows somebody who is in an abusive relationship, what resources are available to them?

A: Project Horizon has a 24-hour crisis hotline: You can call for advice, counseling, resources, coordination, shelter, anything you need.

Project Horizon contact information:


Project horizon will believe you by default. Project Horizon will never question your story.

Other resources:

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800- 799-SAFE (7233), or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

Love is Respect – National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline: 1 (866) 331-9474, or Text: 22522

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) – National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1 (800) 656-4673

Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance: 800-838-8238, or Text: 804- 793-9999

LGBTQ Partner Abuse and Sexual Assault Helpline: 866-356-6998, or Text: 804-793- 9999 sponding-teen-dating-violence