Documentary Sheds Light on Child Abuse


Sifting through 700 hours of film footage, including 200 hours of home video, Sasha Neulinger has been rewatching his childhood for the last four years to create a documentary, Rewind to Fast-Forward.

Sifting through 700 hours of film footage, including 200 hours of home video, Sasha Neulinger has been rewatching his childhood for the last four years to create a documentary, Rewind to Fast-Forward.

At a fundraiser called Montana Meets Pennsylvania at International House Philadelphia on Sept. 24, Neulinger — who grew up in Lower Merion and now lives in Bozeman, Montana — showed a gathering of people who were participating in a silent auction as well as munching on hors d’oeuvres clips from the assembly edits of the film.

While some of the clips were joyful, like Sasha as a little boy laughingly taking his baby sister’s pacifier from her mouth, others hit you in the gut, like his father walking around his childhood home and coming to terms with the fact that his brothers and abusers also sexually abused his son.

Neulinger, now 27, was abused for years as a young boy by three members of his family. The case made headlines as it was found that his uncle, Howard Nevison, one of his abusers (Neulinger and family have changed their names), was a well-known cantor at a synagogue in New York’s Upper East Side.

It’s a part of his past from which Neulinger has spent years healing, and now he wants to share it with the world with the hopes that it will help others heal as well.

Watching the home videos incorporated with the film — which also features interviews with his psychiatrist, the prosecutor and detective on his case, his parents as well as others — gave him an opportunity to revisit his childhood and a chance to look at how his past affected him and how it has shaped him as an adult, he said.

“In rewatching my childhood,” he said, “I got to see the kid that I was before abuse. I got to see how much beauty and joy that I started with in life. I got to watch the four years of my life from 4 to 8 where I was holding this painful secret and I got to watch myself grow up. And in rewatching my childhood memories and moments, I got to realize something I couldn’t possibly understand as a child who felt dirty, disgusting, unlovable, and that is that I never lost what made me beautiful. I only lost the ability to accept that I was beautiful, to see that I was worth something.

“But when I watch myself as a kid objectively as an adult,” he continued, “I see that my abusers didn’t take that beauty away from me, even though I was experiencing pain, even though I was limited by self-doubt and self-deprecating thoughts. And in seeing that, it’s been beautiful to reconnect with the part of myself that for so long I thought made me less than the quote-unquote victim.”

Interviews with his mother, as the audience saw, included recalling a time where Neulinger tried to jump out of a moving car and dark drawings he had made.

His story involves looking at multigenerational abuse and the emotional, clinical and legal facets that go with it.

“In juxtaposing my childhood to the childhood of my abusers, who were also abused,” he said, “we can see what help for a child actually means in terms of their overall health, but we can still look at my case and say that’s not good enough — we need child advocacy centers, we need to erase the stigma and the shame, there needs to be more support for adult survivors.”

But ultimately, the message is one of hope.

“There is inspiration, there is hope and the message is that if we are able to look at our wounds and embrace your fears, to accept and examine our traumatic experiences, then we can truly heal them and move forward in life,” he said, “and this idea that it’s never too late to start the journey of healing.

“And ultimately I believe that healing isn’t a destination. It’s a journey.”

Through Kickstarter, Neulinger started raising funds to create the project that became the sixth most-backed documentary in Kickstarter history, he added, and began working with Skywalker Sound and editor Ken Schretzmann from Pixar. The goal for the Sept. 24 event was to raise the additional funds needed for sound editing and to create an original score for the film, which he hopes will be done by August 2017.

His case spurred a larger movement in child advocacy, including the creation of Mission Kids Child Advocacy Center in East Norriton with the help of then-district attorney Risa Ferman and Abbie Newman.

A Philadelphia-area transplant from New York, Newman began her career as a pediatric registered nurse before becoming an attorney for 20 years and then moving into nonprofit work.

She recalled watching Neulinger’s case unfold on the news, not being able to believe it. Now, as executive director of Mission Kids, she works to make sure that isn’t people’s first reactions.

“A natural reaction is that you want to think you’re not seeing what you’re actually seeing, you’re not really seeing the signs,” she explained. “People will make up excuses in their own minds because it’s easier to say, ‘Oh he’s just eccentric, he’s quirky, he’s not really touching inappropriately.’ The clip in the film where Howard is using the word pervert in a joking way, that’s not a very — that makes people uncomfortable but people are willing to overlook it and I think that happens all the time.”

For her, the mission is for people to recognize abuse and talk about it to erase the stigma, and films like Neulinger’s will help, she said.

“I want people to recognize that child abuse does exist,” she said, “that they should never question reporting what might be child abuse because they’re concerned about the adult and what could happen to that adult if a report is false. I want them to think, instead, what happens to that child if he or she is being abused and you don’t report it.

“The final message is that children can heal from abuse, but only if it’s recognized and they can talk about it, and as adults, we need to help them let go of this secret and give them the support they need so they can heal.”

Donations for the film’s development and production can still be made at

Contact:; 215-832-0740


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