To Hell and Back: Tanjas Story

Promotional Trailer

To Hell and Back: Tanja’s Story is the disturbing and inspirational true story of a woman who reclaimed her life after being kept as a sex slave by her father for 23 years.

When Tanjas Darke took her father to court in 2000, the case shocked New Zealand when it was revealed that Ronald Van Der Plaat (67) had manipulated, controlled and abused his daughter from the age of nine.  Outwardly Van Der Plaat had appeared a charming and intelligent man who liked to collect and photograph Pacific artifacts, was a loving solo father and a volunteer Lifeline counsellor.

But to his daughter Tanjas, he was a monster who raped, beat and drugged her. Tanjas managed to escape at the age of 32, and it was only after suffering a near-fatal cardiac arrest as a result of the drugs he had given her, that she courageously decided to report her father’s abuse.  Her father denied everything and said his daughter had a vivid imagination.  Yet police found hundreds of naked photos of Tanjas and bondage equipment at his home.

On October 19. 2000 a jury convicted Van Der Plaat of rape, indecent assault and sexual violation.  He was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment, and a subsequent appeal was dismissed.

Tanjas made this documentary because she wanted to show that if “I can go through hell and come through still thinking the world is a wonderful place then so can anyone else in a similar situation.”

“This is an extraordinary – and yet ultimately positive story – which aims to give other abuse victims a message of hope while also providing a rare insight into a situation that seems incomprehensible,” says producer Rachel Stace.


Production Details

Producer: Rachel Stace

Thanks to: Tanjas Darke

Exec producer: John Harris

Network executive: Irene Gardiner

Writer/director: Roz Mason

Script polisher: Paul Hagan

Researcher: Rachel Stace, Linda Herrick, Tanjas Darke, Belinda McLeod

Editor: Andy McGrath

Additional editor: Glen Molesworth

Production manager: Toni Williams

Production coordinator: Elizabeth McGougan

Production assistant: Lornelle Henry

Camera: Mike O’Connor

Additional camera: Nic Finlayson, Steve Fisher

Sound mix: Sam Richards

Post production: Images

Sound: Mike McCree

Additional sound: Don Anderson

Narrator: Paul Barrett

Production accountant: Glenda Paterson

Funded by: New Zealand on Air and TVNZ