‘Keep This Between Us’ Exposes the Disturbing Grooming Epidemic in America’s Schools

When nasty revelations about Harvey Weinstein first went bankrupt in 2017, Cheryl Nichols — executive producer and subject of the Freeform archive Keep this between us—The members are reading the news in her living room. “The first thing that came to my mind,” she recently told The Daily Beast, “is what happened to me.”

As described in the archives, Nichols grew up in a small Texas town called Little Elm. She alleges that her high school theater teacher’s husband groomed her as a teenager—A relationship that lasted until her college years. While Nichols knew that her experience was like a survivor of grooming and sexual abuse Unlike Weinstein’s accusations, the story in the national press hit her “as part of a larger problem of vanity, patriarchy and abuse of power”. Witnessing Weinstein’s accusations made the filmmaker start thinking about how she wanted to tell her own story.

Part personal narrative and part cultural exploration, Keep this between us examining grooming and sexual abuse in the American school system. This series combines expert interviews, first-person accounts, and social media testimony. In addition to Nichols, the series’ second subject is a young survivor named Heaven Rubin – who took the Miami-Dade School Board to court for her reaction to her own allegedly inappropriate relationship with a teacher when she was 17 years old.

The document premiered in two parts on August 29 on Freeform. The following two seasons will follow on August 30, and all episodes will be available on Hulu 24 hours after they air. In a recent interview, Nichols explained how her idea for a feature-length documentary has turned into something bigger.

“The more people we talked to, the more it became clear to us that this was a big deal and was worth more time than just an hour,” Nichols said. And so, the film became a four-part documentary Directed by Amy Berg (Phoenix is ​​rising), Jenna Rosher (Dear…) and Kristi Jacobson (Single). Nichols executive producer.

“I wanted to make sure that as many people noticed this as possible,” Nichols said. “And I wanted to tell a story from my intimate perspective, because I felt that if I could be vulnerable and open, that would allow other women to relate to me in a way that would not be difficult. something.”

The series sees Nichols interviewing former classmates, one of her high school teachers, and a best friend she pushed away when her allegedly inappropriate relationship with her teacher husband The stage is tense. The project also helped Nichols realize how different each trauma survivor’s journey is. At first, she recalls, she spent most of her focus getting other women to come forward and talk about their experiences. However, over time, she realized that wasn’t always the case.

“Some people don’t have to come first to handle it [something like] this,” said Nichols. Realizing that, she added, “was one of the biggest shifts and changes for me – and I’ve certainly entrusted a lot of that to me.”

In lieu of the group’s testimony, the emotional power in Keep this between us emerged as Nichols sat on the other side of the figurative table.

To achieve the vulnerability Nichols wanted, she knew she needed to get out of her comfort zone and “step into the subject.” As one might imagine, it’s no easy task for someone whose adult coping mechanisms tend to revolve around control.

“I don’t know how to predict how I’m going to react emotionally,” says Nichols. “Real lows that I will have to go through; what would really bring me joy in the process. “

The filmmaker was determined to really let go, even if predicting what that would mean was impossible. However, Nichols also knows that part of what drives her is her desire to recount what happened between herself and the teacher — which, in certain moments, inevitably makes letting go even even more difficult.

Keep this between us took almost five years to make. “So from start to finish [of the project]like I’m a completely different person,” observed Nichols.

Some of that evolution takes place on screen. Among the most interesting interviews Nichols does are those with her former Spanish teacher, who often calls her supposed groom a friend. Before the final episode ended, Nichols questioned the Spanish teacher about the allegations against him.

I have found many reasons and ways in which I choose to stick to friendships — especially friendships with older men, and especially friendships with older teachers.

“The dynamic between him and I definitely changed during the making of this documentary,” Nichols said. “I have come to realize so many reasons and ways I choose to stick to friendships — especially friendships with older men, and especially friendships with older teachers.”

The manufacturer’s perspective on development is not the only change in focus. Halfway Keep this between uswe meet Heaven, who last year won 6 million dollars in damages in her sexual abuse case against the Miami-Dade school board stemming from allegations against former high school teacher Jason Meyers. (Heaven alleges that Meyers, her English teacher, abused her when she was 17. Although the State of Florida brought criminal charges against Meyers, he was not found guilty and denied. accept all charges.) As Nichols observes in the documents, survivors’ paths to healing can vary; While she worked through her trauma through production, Heaven sought remedies in court.

Before she started working Keep this between us, Nichols had not met so many survivors. Making those connections has helped her gain a deeper understanding of her own experiences, she says. She recalled a conversation she shared with a groomed survivor and Is Lolita Author Alisson Wood has changed her view on labels like “victim” and “survivor”.

“I hate those words,” Nichols said. “I feel like they don’t describe my experience or who I am. But during this process, I really started to associate the word ‘victim’ in a way that didn’t feel belittled… Allison talked about the word in a way that I mean a lot like something. happened to you. and not something that you are. And I love that. “

Blame the victim and minimize the damage caused by abuse, like Keep this between us pointed out, embedded in rape culture. In her own testimony, Heaven detailed how the Administration tried to downplay what happened to her. For Nichols, the most damaging story Americans tell about teenage girls is often just six words: “She knows what she’s doing.”

“I think a lot of times we believe teenage girls are young women. We don’t think of them as kids, that’s what they are,” Nichols said. “When I was growing up, all I heard was, ‘You’re so grown up. You are wiser than your age. ‘ While that may be true, there are people who have used that as an excuse to get what they want from me and treat me the way they want. “

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