Living with horror
I’ve written before about my own experiences of sexual abuse. It’s not fun reading and not much fun writing it either. At the time I was receiving support through counselling and it was the right time to aggressively punch the past in its memory hole. Those holes in memory are both good and bad – our memories are incredibly fragile; they fade, disappear or are renewed by re-remembering. All of those things change our perceptions of what happened and it affects how we feel about them.
I knew that I had significant gaps, and twenty years of simultaneously being haunted by those memories and trying to ignore them (distraction, drink, drugs – all the usual stuff) served to confuse and diffuse those memories to the point that I no longer really understood what had happened, or what effect it had had on me… and consequently didn’t really know how I felt. The weird grey anxiety and unhappiness that formed was all the more distressing for not knowing why it was there. I’d thoroughly tied my mind in knots.
During counselling I used my teenage diaries, letters from my abuser and the few photographs that I hadn’t destroyed (but had securely bound so I wouldn’t accidentally open). That was all fairly harrowing and traumatic, but ultimately cathartic and has left me in a much better state mentally (and physically I think).
Rewind To Fast-Forward
How I approached my own journey to understand my past simply pales when compared to Sasha Joseph Neulinger’s plan. Sasha’s making a film using home video footage of himself while growing up – film from the same time that he was suffering sexual abuse at the hands of members of his own family. The situation is horrific enough (though tragically not uncommon), but the idea of trawling back through those films to look for the impact of those hidden events actually makes my skin crawl.
It’s a tremendously brave project, as well as inspirational for those who may have suffered similarly. I urge you to back his Kickstarter campaign to get this documentary made. I’m not sure I could ever bring myself to watch it, but I feel it should be made, and shared. We can all learn from this. There are 19 days to go – let’s help them hit their stretch goal of $200,000.
Director Sasha Joseph Neulinger spent his childhood in front of a camera. His father Henry, also a documentary filmmaker, shot over two hundred hours of home video capturing every aspect of Sasha’s young life. But within the footage of birthday parties, family trips, and hockey games, something dark was hidden. Sasha revisits his father’s videos and the painful secret of his early years—a secret that would shift the course of his life. Between the ages of three and seven, Sasha was sexually abused by two of his uncles and one male cousin. After Sasha came forward and spoke up about the abuse, his father Henry shared a secret of his own. Henry’s brothers, the same men who had abused Sasha, had also abused Henry as a boy. Sasha spent a decade entangled in the criminal justice system—and struggling to find his identity in the aftermath of his stolen childhood. This autobiographical film will unearth a historical case of multigenerational sexual abuse and by doing so, it will also give intimate and inspiring insight into one survivor’s healing process.
From the Director
In my first feature length documentary, I will share my experience of overcoming child sexual abuse, a journey from victim to survivor. My goal is to shed light on what it is to be a child abuse victim—from the first moment of abuse, through the process of reclaiming and rebalancing life. I want to expose the causes underlying the destructive multigenerational cycle of child abuse in my own family. And I hope that as I share my story as a case study, we can have a more open conversation about the importance of an uninterrupted healing process for child victims and reduce the numbers of children who are abused.