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.
“Groomed” follows Gwen as she returns to her home country of the Netherlands to confront her past, talk to her parents about the abuse, and decide whether to report her offender after 20+ years of silence. In her search for understanding, Gwen reaches out to other survivors whose stories look very different (from child abuse to college sexual assault) but all follow the same pattern of grooming and psychological response. And finally, ‘Groomed’ dives deep into the psychology of sexual predators through open conversations between Gwen and imprisoned offenders, as they explain how they target and groom their victims.
It is time we open our eyes to the truth about sexual abuse – and “Groomed” is the wake-up call we need.