Netflix’s ‘Unbelievable’ Sheds Light On The Importance Of Believing Sexual Assault Survivors

by Sarah Bregel
Originally Published: 

The new series tells a sad and heroic tale of a rape victim who no one believed

The reviews are in and Netflix’s new show, Unbelievable, which just dropped on Friday is a must-watch. The show, written by Susannah Grant, who wrote Erin Brockovich, Michael Chabon and Avelet Waldman, is a series inspired by real life events. And it’s definitely one you won’t want to miss.

The show tells the story of an 18-year-old girl, played by actress Kaitlyn Dever, who reported to the Lynnwood, Washington police that she’d been raped by a masked man with a knife. She had already had a very turbulent childhood spent in foster homes, where she was physically and sexually abused when she made the claim in August of 2008, but she retracted her statements after the male detectives, as well as her foster mothers, pressured her to.

The real life Marie (it’s actually her middle name) was charged with false reporting and accepted a plea deal. But then, similar cases began popping up, and when they did, two Colorado detectives, played by Toni Collette and Merritt Wever, came together try help figure out who was behind the rapes.

The story is as compelling as it is eerie, especially because it’s based on a true story, which, while grotesque, is not all that hard to believe really happened. Rape victims often have an extraordinarily difficult time coming forward and with mounting pressure, it’s certainly feasible that someone would retract their story. This is especially understandable considering how sexual assault survivors are often treated when they come forward.

There are already a ton of fans of the show on Twitter. Many of them shared their sentiments on how moved they were by the series, as well as the portrayal of a young rape victim.

It’s an incredibly important topic — believing survivors — and it’s great that Netflix took this one on, but it didn’t happen overnight. It all began, of course, back in 2008. Then, it became an article in 2015, written by investigative journalists, T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong. The ProPublica article earned a 2016 Pulitzer prize before it became a book in 2018.

Viewers seem to have the right sentiment, voicing their outrage that things like this could possibly happen in real life. But we know that they do and likely, a lot more than we know about. One review of the Lynnwood police from 2008-2012 found that 21.3 percent of police deemed the rapes “unfounded” according to the ProPublica article.

While this show is definitely a great watch, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s a true story that really happened to this young girl and happens to way too many. But the takeaway is an important one: survivors need to be heard and they need to be believed.

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