Watching “Amanda Knox” While Studying Abroad in Italy

Heading abroad is supposed to be one of the best experiences of your college career; I know that it has been so far for me. Yet, for Amanda Knox, her year in Italy was cut short when she was charged with murdering her then roommate, Meredith Kercher, in their shared apartment.

The 20-year-old college student from the University of Washington was doing an exchange program in Perugia, the capital of the Umbria region in Italy, when Meredith was brutally murdered. Knox was accused and then charged for the murder with her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito. After being acquitted and then tried again, they were finally exonerated by the Italian Supreme Court last year. Throughout all of this, the media went nuts, blowing many of the facts out of proportion, as seen in the new Netflix documentary, Amanda Knox.

Amanda’s name was not only in the news at the time, but I remember having in-depth conversations with my mom about whether or not she was innocent. We were both convinced that she was; the evidence just didn’t add up and we had hoped she would eventually be released and allowed back home to Seattle. I couldn’t shake a scary thought, that anyone could be in her shoes with a shoddy investigation like that.

Now here I am, a little less than 10 years later, and I find myself in Italy. Europe had been on my bucket list for a long time, and once I found the Florence program I’m currently on, I knew that it was the one for me. I could just imagine myself in this town, surrounded by ancient artifacts and more history than I could ever hope to remember. I chose Italy for all of that, the beautiful language and the experience I knew I was sure to have.

I once drove through Perugia on a day trip. It was like all the other cities that had been built into the side of a hill (a defense mechanism when the towns were established); houses with brown tiled roofs looking like they were stacked on top of each other and the streets made with cobblestones that could have predated the Roman Empire like the entire town does. The name sounded familiar, but I didn’t think anything of it until this case came up again a few short weeks later.

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A very striking line in the film is: "There are those who believe my innocence and there are those who believe in my guilt. There's no in between; either I'm a psychopath in sheep's clothing or I am you." And she very well could be. Florence is just a two-hour drive from Perugia. I’m in my early twenties, and I too am a college student with ambitions and a family whom I love dearly. Like almost all students abroad, I have a roommate and I am currently having the time of my life. Watching the documentary, it really hit home how close my story could be to hers and hers to mine.

From the lack of “objective evidence,” as Amanda calls it, at the scene of the crime, she was just a regular, innocent girl coerced into an untrue confession and then thrown in jail for nearly four years. She was told she had HIV while in jail, her personal diary was leaked to the vulture-like press at the time and her name was dragged through the mud. All the media and prosecutors could focus on was her “sexual deviancy” and her “drug-filled sex games” (which they mentioned often). Why was it okay to focus on her sexuality, her kinks (if she had any), and how many men she had been with? Would a man be questioned about this on television? Would he be asked picked apart by the world and called “Foxy Knoxy” in a derogatory fashion? Considering there were two other males involved in the case, the answer is, "Nope." That would not happen to a man in the same situation. Even when one of the men, Rudy Guede, had numerous fingerprints that placed him at the crime scene without a shadow of a doubt, he wasn't subject to the same level of scrutiny. Amanda’s DNA wasn’t found anywhere in the room.

I love Italy and I know I will remember my experiences here forever. But unfortunately, Amanda was not so lucky all due to preconceived notions and an investigation that didn’t do her justice. At the end of the film, Knox reflects on what caused her to go to jail for a crime she did not commit. She says that people like to project; when they are afraid, they see monsters where they can. It gives them a form of comfort to know who the bad people are. "We're all afraid. And fear makes people crazy." “Crazy” put her in jail. “Crazy” killed her roommate. And “crazy” created a massive witch hunt that we should be ashamed of today.