Baby Reindeer creator Richard Gadd says telling story about sexual assault ‘saved my life’

Netflix show ‘Baby Reindeer’ tells real-life story of Gadd’s experiences of stalking and abuse

Ellie Muir
Wednesday 24 April 2024 06:54 BST
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Baby Reindeer creator Richard Gadd has said that making a show about his own experiences of being sexually assaulted provided him with a lifeline after grappling with his trauma in silence.

Gadd, 34, stars in the new Netflix series Baby Reindeer, which is based on his real-life experiences of being a victim of stalking, sexual assault and abuse.

Baby Reindeer follows struggling comic Donny Dunn (Gadd) as he is relentlessly harassed and stalked by Martha Scott (Jessica Gunning) for four and a half years. A subplot in the show sees Dunn groomed and raped by an older man called Darrian (Tom Goodman-Hill), who works in the comedy industry. Similar events happened to Gadd in real life.

In the penultimate episode of the seven-part series, Gadd’s character has an emotional breakdown on stage mid-performance and tells the audience what happened to him.

While in real life, Gadd didn’t have a spontaneous breakdown on stage, he did write about being sexually assaulted for his award-winning Edinburgh fringe show Monkey See Monkey Do.

Speaking to The Guardian about the first time he performed Monkey See Monkey Do, Gadd said that the show saved him after keeping his experiences hidden for so long.

Speaking about the final technical rehearsal before opening night, Gadd recalled: “I remember cracking up, because it was all going so badly, and the producer said, ‘What do you want from this, man?’ And I turned to him with tears in my eyes, and said, ‘I just want to make it out alive.’ Little did I know that it would provide a lifeline for me.

“The way people received that show, and received me, and accepted what happened to me: it saved my life. It’s mad that it happened that way.”

‘Baby Reindeer’ is based on Gadd’s real-life experiences of stalking and sexual assault
‘Baby Reindeer’ is based on Gadd’s real-life experiences of stalking and sexual assault (©Netflix/Courtesy Everett Collection)

“It’s clearly struck a chord,” he says. “I really did believe in it, but it’s taken off so quickly that I do feel a bit windswept.”

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After watching Baby Reindeer, viewers have been left in awe of Gadd’s complex portrayal of abuse, sexual violence and the ways that male victims of harassment can be overlooked.

“It’s clearly struck a chord,” he said of the show’s success. “I really did believe in it, but it’s taken off so quickly that I do feel a bit windswept.”

Gadd has praised the charity We Are Survivors for supporting him through the years.

“Sometimes I speak to male survivors, and I’m not an advice giver or a professional, but the first advice is: break the silence. Talk to someone, and if that’s too scary, just write it down, process it into something. Because I think the more you get it out, the smaller it becomes,” he said.

“When you go through something like sexual abuse, a lot of the disempowerment can come from these old ideas of what it means to be a man. Certainly when I shook off that idea, and realised that speaking out and saying ‘I’m struggling’ is a form of strength, sloughing off the idea that masculinity was the only form of survival – that was very healing.”

Richard Gadd in ‘Baby Reindeer’
Richard Gadd in ‘Baby Reindeer’ (Netflix)

If you are experiencing feelings of distress, or are struggling to cope, you can speak to the Samaritans, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call or text 988, or visit 988lifeline.org to access online chat from the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. This is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.

Rape Crisis offers support for those affected by rape and sexual abuse. You can call them on 0808 802 9999 in England and Wales, 0808 801 0302 in Scotland, and 0800 0246 991 in Northern Ireland, or visit their website at www.rapecrisis.org.uk. If you are in the US, you can call Rainn on 800-656-HOPE (4673).

Baby Reindeer is streaming now on Netflix.

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