A Peloton of One follows Dave Ohlmuller, a man in his mid-50s who rode his bicycle from Chicago to New York to bring attention to the obstacles that survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA) face in making their voices heard. Ohlmuller was abused when he was 12 years old, and trauma affected his entire life. It wasn’t until his late 40s that he was finally able to start opening up about his experience, and his journey since then has been far from simple. Like many survivors, he had a lot of difficulty sharing his story with others and continues to search for healthy forms of self-care.
Biking became one of those, and in late 2018, he set out on his two-week bicycling journey. He and his film crew chronicled the ride, as well as the stops he made along the way, meeting other survivors and advocates to the discuss the impact CSA had on them, their loved ones and their communities. One major focus is on the extremely punitive statute of limitations most state governments place on survivors that prevent them from seeking justice against their abusers in the court of law.
Many states still place a limit on when a survivor can report the crime, and in some cases, that time is as short as two years. This means that a 6-year-old, for instance, would need to report it before they turn 8 years old. Despite the absurdity of those rules, interest groups and the power of organized religion have worked hard to protect the Institutions rather than everyday citizens. Peloton focuses mainly on the states that Dave travels through on his trip — Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York — and thankfully, postscripts reveal that, a few years after the film wast shot, several of those states made changes in the right direction as of this film’s wide release. In 2019, for instance, New York passed the New York Child Victims Act, which allows victims to sue up to the age of 55, with a one-year window for previously barred victims. New Jersey passed a similar law, with a two-year window. Pennsylvania passed a law as well, without the window for previously barred victims. It’s progress, but there is more work to be done.
Although Dave’s ride is cathartic, the film is careful not to pretend it’s an end-all-be-all salve for his trauma. The film is a hard look at the ups and downs of healing and how it is a ongoing process. One thing that helps, though, is the building of community. Dave’s mission to bring awareness puts him in touch with so many people who are working through their own trauma and who help him work through his. As the film states upfront, a peloton (not to be confused with the popular stationary bike brand) is a group of cyclists that save energy by riding together. Although Dave spent much of his life living alone with his story, over the course of the story, he finds his team, and it makes his journey less difficult. This is a informative, heartfelt and thoughtful documentary .