HCAU Reviews "Unbelievable"

*Content warning: this article discusses sexual assault.*

Recent statistics report that one individual in America alone is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds. And yet, there is still a shockingly detrimental attitude towards the act of rape; some don’t believe that sexual assault is a crime, others are quick to assume that victims are at fault and responsible, and some even believe that victims are making the entire thing up. It is a topic that must be dealt with sensitively, especially when being explored within a mainstream drama. The Netflix limited series ‘Unbelievable’ achieves this successfully.

**Spoilers ahead**

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The series follows 18-year-old Marie Adler from Lynnwood, Washington. After being tied up and sexually assaulted in her bedroom, Marie reports the attack immediately - but it isn’t long before her story is torn down by two male detectives who continuously challenge her. Marie is asked to describe the incident repeatedly to numerous strangers, before being medically examined and later interrogated. Her inconsistent statement is assumed false by the male detectives, who paint her as an unreliable and incompetent narrator of her own truth. In response to their lack of trust toward Marie and her truth, she asks the male detectives whether she is in trouble - a prime example of why so many victims choose not to report their attack. She is then informed of the severe consequences of false reporting, and ultimately the treatment of her case. This mistreatment of Marie by the authorities is a reflection of how a lower social class and troubled background can influence how seriously a victim is taken. Eventually, Marie withdraws her statement and is fined with wasting police time.

Episode 2 takes place three years after Marie’s attack, and introduces another woman, Amber, who comes forward in a different state, but with a similar story. The juxtaposition of treatment between the victims is striking to the audience, especially when Amber is treated with such gentleness and compassion, unlike Marie. Two female detectives are introduced, Wever and Collette, who join forces in an attempt to catch what appears to be a serial rapist. Despite the devastating circumstances that bring them together, it is refreshing to witness two empowering female leads fighting for women’s rights after enduring such a horrific ordeal. Their determination to put right the injustice demonstrates how seriously sexual assault cases should be taken. Yet despite the progression made with their case, the audience is constantly reminded of the injustice that Marie endured. Both Wever and Collette provide reassurance to the victims, reminding them that they are not alone, and most importantly, that they are being taken seriously. The series emphasises that even minor details are significant, and victims shouldn’t be pressured into discussing their trauma until they feel comfortable doing so.

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‘Unbelievable’ serves as a reminder of the importance of listening to the victims of such horrific attacks and emphasises that healing is an incredibly subjective and personal process. It focuses on the aftermath of trauma, and is solely concerned with the treatment of victims, while also revealing that the criminal justice system is often inconsistent and unequal. It handles the subject matter sensitively, which is rare within television. As opposed to the series focusing on exploitative content, it explores the attack from the victim’s perspective only. The exploration into the selectiveness of which victims are taken seriously, and the impact that social factors can have on gaining justice, is frightening in a world where only five offenders in every 1,000 cases are convicted. While these statistics may not be news to members of the audience, this series ultimately encourages people to start a conversation. The cast are phenomenal in creating authentic characters who trip over their own insecurities, making them very human to an audience seeking reassurance. ‘Unbelievable’ is simply a must-watch of the year.

If you or someone you love has expirienced or been affected by sexual violence call Rape Crisis Scotland at 08088 01 03 02. For more information please visit their website: https://www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk/.

Sources:

https://www.rainn.org/