Rewind To Fast-Forward
an autobiographical documentary about Sasha Joseph Neulinger, a survivor of multigenerational child sexual abuse
In the United States alone, 1 out of every 3 girls, and 1 out of every 5 boys are sexually abused before they reach the age of 18. In reality, the number may be higher—many survivors of childhood sexual abuse never tell anyone about their abuse.
Rewind To Fast-Forward is an autobiographical documentary about Sasha Joseph Neulinger, a survivor of multigenerational child sexual abuse. This film breaks the silence surrounding child sexual abuse and encourages abuse victims to reach out for help.
As a child, Sasha was sexually abused between the ages of 4 and 8 by two uncles and a cousin. He didn’t understand what was happening to him, he didn’t know what child sexual abuse was. He only knew that what his family members were doing to him was extremely painful, and believed that if a family member who was supposed to love him was doing this to him, he must have deserved this pain because he was awful.
He believed that he was dirty, disgusting, unlovable. He withdrew into a dark, evil place and lost the ability to respect and love himself. He became suicidal, and at 8 years old he threw himself from his mom’s car. When he finally told his mom what had been happening, he began seeing a therapist and trying to process the trauma. For most of his childhood, he believed he was unworthy of love and wanted to die.
Sasha didn’t set out to tell this story. He testified against his abusers and his name was changed during the high profile court cases to protect his identity. After high school graduation and the conclusion of the court proceedings, Sasha enrolled at Montana State University to study filmmaking. His abusers had been sentenced, and he no longer had to be “Sasha the victim”; he could be “Sasha whoever I wanted to be”. His time in college and working his dream job after graduation as a production assistant for Grizzly Creek Films were some of the happiest times in his life.
But he kept his abuse a secret. He didn’t know how to love the part of him that he believed made him “less than”. He believed that if anyone knew what had happened to him, they would think he was dirty, disgusting, and unlovable.
Nearly 3 years ago he made the choice the embrace his greatest fear, to share the story of his child sexual abuse, to embrace the terrified child inside him and learn to love all of himself. He revisited 200 hours of home video and relived his childhood, both the painful moments of abuse along with beautiful moments that had been overshadowed by the abuse.
Somehow, through all the trauma and abuse he had endured as a child, testifying in court against the family members that had abused him, hiding 4-year-old Sasha in a closet and believing he was dirty, disgusting and unlovable, he had come out the other side stronger, able to love himself, and with a calling to help other survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
“I can’t change the past, I can’t change the fact that I was sexually abused as a child. I can’t reverse the trauma. I can only choose how I show up in the present moment of my life. Every day when I wake up I have to embrace the fear that comes from being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. The vulnerabilities that I feel, the voice that echoes in the back of my mind from 4-year-old Sasha who still says, ‘You’re dirty, disgusting, you’re unlovable’. I look into the mirror, and I look deep into my own eyes, and I find 4-year-old me, and I say, ‘I love you. You are beautiful human being, Sasha. You are worthy of love. And I love you.’ It can be the hardest thing to do, but it’s worth it.”
Sasha is a Montana State University graduate and Bozeman resident. With his film, Sasha hopes 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, shifting from victim to survivor, while exposing the causes underlying the destructive multigenerational cycle of child abuse in his own family. Sharing his story as a case study, Sasha hopes to lead a more open conversation about the importance of an uninterrupted healing process for child victims and reduce the numbers of children who are abused.
In 2014, Sasha and his company, Step 1 Films joined forces with Grizzly Creek Films, an award-winning television production company. Together they launched a Kickstarter campaign that raised $176,746, becoming the 6th most backed documentary in Kickstarter history with 4,395 backers. The Kickstarter trailer received over half a million views and was featured by Upworthy. In March 2015, Sasha presented at TEDxBozeman, with, “Trauma is Irreversible. How it Shapes Us Is Our Choice.” Since being reposted by Upworthy back in May, Sasha’s TEDx talk has had over 67,000 views.
Rewind To Fast-Forward is now in the post-production/editing process. Along with directing the edit, Sasha has been the team’s primary liaison, speaking publicly at child advocacy events nationwide to help communities of survivors and allies who fight for child advocacy.
Sasha’s story has touched thousands of lives. He has received over 6,000 personal emails from other survivors, thanking him for his courage to tell his story, and for giving them the courage to tell their own stories of abuse, many for the first time in their lives.
Rewind To Fast-Forward is as informative and shocking as it is ultimately uplifting, healing, and inspiring. This film will help protect the next generation of children, help survivors who are dealing with the pains that come from child sexual abuse, and will encourage a more open dialogue to turn the topic of abuse from shame and to healing and encourage a safer community for generations to come.
This film is well on its way to being completed by November 2016. An incredible story, filmed by an Emmy Award Winning Film Crew, and with the support of and Academy Award Winning Post-Production Crew, including Skywalker Sound, this film is primed to make a global impact. Step 1 Films still needs to raise additional funds to pay for important finishing components such as sound design, original score, color correction, graphics, and distribution.
In January 2016, our Bozeman community will have an opportunity to help Sasha finish telling his story. Sasha and his team will be holding a fundraiser at the Baxter Hotel on March 11th, 2016. For details on the fundraiser and to stay in touch, follow Rewind To Fast-Forward on Facebook or visit the Rewind To Fast-Forward website.
“I am grateful for the sky and rock bottom. The joy and the pain, the peace and the anxiety. The moments of clarity and the episodes of fog. The love and the fear, the survivor and the victim. My experiences have helped guide me to the truth of my heart, the strength in my voice, the power in my vulnerability and the value of my boundaries. To loving myself. All of myself. I am grateful for the journey. For all that it has been and all that it will be.”
- Sasha Joseph Neulinger
Heather Higinbotham is a Bozeman writer, poet, mom, and sustainability nerd. She can be reached at www.heatherhiginbotham.com.