GROOMED – Movie Review

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Groomed is an intensely personal documentary in which the filmmaker chronicles her own journey to discover the truth about her childhood encounter with a predatory sexual abuser and to recover from the long lasting impact his abuse has had on her life as an adult. Gwen van de Pas, now living in San Francisco with a wonderfully understanding and supportive man, is beset by nightmares and panic attacks and sets out to investigate the cause of them.

She conducts interviews with psychologists, with other victims and with a convicted predator and she travels to her childhood home in Holland to revisit the scene of the abuse, to question her loving parents who’ve actually shunned discussion about what happened and to track down and confront her abuser — her school’s highly respected and trusted swim team coach who raped her on a regular/frequent schedule from the time she was 11 through her 13th year. Her story is harrowing, her determination to heal herself is heroic and she’s a very fine first-time filmmaker.

There is also an element of suspense. Will she find her predator? And if she does, what will she do? And will the predator be brought to justice?

All of that makes Groomed a documentary that calls forth audience compassion, concern and engagement. But the film has another component that makes it a must see for all parents. It shows clearly that Gwen van de Pas and the other abuse survivors who are featured in the film were ‘groomed’ by their predators — a swimming team coach, a father, an uncle and a priest — to submit to the abuse without telling anyone about it and to assume that they were ‘bad’ and at fault for their victimization. It outlines the ways in which predators manipulate and con their vulnerable young victims and details the steps they take one by one. As van de Pas recalls and relives her childhood trauma and revisits the difficult the past with her father, and as she interviews the other victims who appear in the documentary, the perpetrators’ predatory practices and tactics and variations on those practices and tactics become clear. A discernable pattern emerges. This truly important information is delivered in Groomed. Parents and those who take care of young children should heed the skillfully delivered message.

EDITOR’S NOTE:Groomed is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for March 26, 2021

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