Guilt. Confusion. Complicity. These were feelings that filmmaker Gwen van de Pas held onto for 20+ years, after being sexually assaulted by her swim coach as a child. What she didn’t realize, was that these feelings were caused by a psychological process called “grooming” that her perpetrator had put her through.
While an estimated 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men in the US are survivors of sexual assault, we hold many misconceptions about it. Most importantly, we believe that sexual assault is violently committed by scary-looking strangers. In reality, however, ~80% of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim and involve a psychological process called “grooming”. Grooming is the process of 1) targeting vulnerable victims, 2) building a relationship that makes the victim feel special, 3) ensuring the victim feels complicit in the assault, and 4) therefore invoking feelings of guilt, shame, and hesitation to report.