Front Burner

The real story behind 'Women Talking'

Today on Front Burner, a series of sexual assaults at a Mennonite Colony in Bolivia is the inspiration behind Sarah Polley’s new film Women Talking. We’ll hear the real story from a journalist who covered it more than a decade ago.
A group of women sit on bales of hay in a barn.
This image released by United Artists shows Rooney Mara, from left,, Claire Foy, Judith Ivey, Sheila McCarthy, Michelle McLeod and Jessie Buckley in a scene from Women Talking. (Michael Gibson/Orion/United Artists Releasing)

Canadian director Sarah Polley's new Oscar-nominated film Women Talking is set in an isolated religious community where a group of women and girls must decide how to respond to sexual assault in their community. Over two days, they debate: should they do nothing, should they fight, or should they flee?

Polley has been clear that her story is fiction. It is based on a novel by Miriam Toews, a Canadian author who grew up in a Mennonite family. 

But before the book and the film, there was a real community where women woke up with foggy memories and physical pain. That community is the Manitoba Mennonite Colony in Bolivia. Journalist Jean Friedman-Rudovsky traveled there over a decade ago to speak to women about what had happened to them. She says what they told her still haunts her to this day.

*A warning: today's episode contains graphic details involving sexual assault.*

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