As any other media, apart from creating its own agenda, Netflix reflects society’s one. This is the case of Unbelievable, a Netflix series that brings up a sadly common topic during recent years: sexual abuse.
What would happen if, after suffering from rape, you go to the police asking for help and nobody believe you, not even your family or friends? This is the case of Marie Adler, an 18-year-old woman who reports in 2008 to the police being raped by a masked man who broke into her apartment during the night. The male officers and detectives assigned to her case start to question whether Marie has really been a rape victim instead of focusing on finding the rapist.
Marie, played by Katilyn Dever, is subjected to several interrogations which far from helping her, seem to reflect a lack of regard for the psychic health of someone who has just suffered a trauma. After repeatedly asking Marie about every detail of the rape scene, the police officers find some inconsistencies in her statement and encouraged by Marie’s foster mother, who doubts about the truth of her word, persuade her to take back her claim. Once the case is closed, Marie is charged for false testimony which adds indignation to the situation.
However, there is still hope when three years later in 2011, two female detectives in Colorado (played by Merrit Wever and Toni Collette) start to investigate the existence of a possible serial rapist by following several cases with similar characteristics: victims assaulted while sleeping, tied up, abused and photographed.
This is the storyline of Unbelievable, an eight-chapter series created by Susannah Grant and writers that include novelists Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman. What is even more shocking than the series, is that the plot itself is based on a real story, a Pulitzer Prize-winning article named ‘An Unbelievable Story of Rape’, published in 2015 by ProPublica and the Marshall Project. The article states that Marie’s case was one of 4,859 filed in 2008 in Lynnwood Municipal Court, where she is from. Figure that unfortunately doesn’t sound surprising, taking into account that UK police recorded rapes double over six years to 56,657 in 2018. Despite this, statistics released by the Crown Prosecution Service reveal that rape charges, prosecutions and convictions in England and Wales have fallen to their lowest levels in more than a decade. All this added to a study revealing that only 3% of rape claims in London result in convictions and the controversial advice of taking “weak cases out of the system” given to prosecutors in England and Wales in training seminars.
Christian Miller and Ken Amstrong, authors of the article on which the series is based on, explain that in most violent crimes, police officers face victims with obvious injuries. However, injuries are not usually visible in sexual crimes.
The key point of Unbelievable is the social denunciation of a society and system in which a sexual abuse victim has to deal with being questioned, something that doesn’t happen in the rest of crimes in which the perpetrator is who has to prove his innocence.
Words: Paula Mantilla
Photo: Freestocks.org on Unsplash