'Groomed': Was Gwen van de Pas's sex abuser a person in need of help? Director suspects he was expert 'groomer'
The Discovery+ documentary tells the story of filmmaker Gwen van de Pas, who was sexually abused as a child
Discovery+ released 'Groomed' on Thursday, March 18 and the documentary tells the story of filmmaker Gwen van de Pas, who was sexually abused as a child. The docu follows the impact of repeated abuse on her life and her emotional health as she ponders whether her abuser was just a man who had no idea what he was doing, or whether he was an "expert groomer."
For those unaware, grooming is defined as "Deliberately building an emotional connection to gain the trust of a victim for the sole purpose of sexual abuse." In her column on medium, Gwen describes it as: "A tactic offenders use to lure in their victims and keep them silent. Sexual assault happens to 1 in 10 people in the US and grooming is part of almost all of those cases, in one way or another. It involves multiple steps."
The docu sees Gwen also talk to other victims of sexual abuse and with a convicted sex offender to better understand the psyche of abusers. Over the course of the feature, there comes the question of whether her abuser was actually someone in need of medical help or just a man adept at grooming. The reason for Gwen to think the latter was true was the closeness he shared with her to the point where Gwen questioned every little move he made toward her and even shielded him with fear.
This excerpt describes how Gwen felt: "Reviewing the footage was humbling, confronting, exposing the challenge of being both the director and the subject of your film. It’s frightening to think of an audience watching what I went through during my trip home when sadness and fear hit me like a brick," she said.
"It was as if my memories had been locked in a closet in the back of my mind. And while the door of that closet had been cracked open regularly during panic attacks, conversations or nightmares, when I was in Holland the door swung wide open. Everything came out. I was afraid to walk outside, could not eat for weeks, and cried myself to sleep every night. Not exactly how I’d want an audience to see me."
However, when she does muster up enough courage to report him, bad news comes in the form of the case being dismissed as there was a lack of evidence. A broken Gwen still doesn't give up when she realizes she wasn't his only victim. With a renewed sense of hope, she manages to get a positive ID on the DNA test and then hires a PI to try and acquire his handwriting to match it with the letters she had from her abuser to confirm if he was guilty.
Unsurprisingly, the handwriting looks similar and armed with new evidence, Gwen pushes the case forward again. This also confirms her abuser was an expert groomer.