Unbelievable

Men and the General Desensitization to Sexual Assault

To say I was surprised by the short series “Unbelievable,”  would be an understatement. This show had revealed the ins and outs of working a rape case from the police side as well as the victim’s. Some of it was hard to watch, and hard to handle, but other parts of it were powerful and brave, and revelaed the amount of strength secxual assault victims have, and will have to have for the rest of their lives. But the key thing I noticed in this show and wanted to talk about is the correlation between men, in the police force as well as regular people, and their treatment and view of sexual assault cases. 

At the beginning of the show, a young girl Marie, had just become a victim of sexual assault. She rightfully called the police right after, and the investigation process began immediately. I counted that she had to recall what happened and make her statement six times to the male detectives working her case. It became apparent that every time she told the story again, they believed it less and less; to the point where they coerced her into lying about it and saying the assault didn’t happen all together. This young girl, who just had a tragedy happen to her, is rushed into recalling as many details as possible from something so scarring and probable to being blocked out of her psyche. Being physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, it would be easy to see just how some details get left out or changed in each recalling of the assault, yet the detectives were so quick to pick apart her story and see some of the inconsistencies without considering why that might be, other than she is lying. Their disbelief of the victim’s story and their quickness to say she is lying instead of seeing her inconsistencies for what they were, a response to trauma, shows that there is a level of desensitization to sexual assault and the stories of the victims. 

After the first episode, the show transitions between Marie’s story and the story of two female detectives cracking down on the serial rapist who also happens to be the rapist that attacked Marie. In pursuit of the serial rapist, they investigate past cases of sexual assault, and speak to those victims for details they might not have remembered from when it first happened. One  of the women they went back to talk to was visibly hostile towards the detectives because nothing had come out of her case which was filed an entire year before. It was when she worked with the female detectives that new evidence of a large knife, which he threatened her with during the assault, was discovered in her garden. Why was it that nothing had come out of this woman’s case, yet there was undiscovered evidence lying around in her front yard? There was an obvious lack of effort from the detective on this case, because like the detectives who worked on Marie’s case, the detective didn’t believe what happened to her because of her questionable lifestyle. The detective on this case was a man. The similarities between the male detectives and their judgements and decisions to not believe the female sexual assault  victim is uncannily similar. It is apparent that these detectives have a preceding thought complex when it comes to sexaul assault cases and the trustworthiness of the victims. Now, there sadly is a level of validity to their suspicions and thought complexes because of the unfortunate cases where women purposely lie about being sexually assaulted, for whatever reason it might be. One moment in the show that kind of shocked me, before I realized there was a hint of truth in it was when the female detectives brought in a male suspect for questioning and he said to them, “It happens all the time now. Girls making these claims. It’s a thing. There’s a status to being a victim.” While yes, this sadly can be a fact, it should be viewed and categorized as what it is, a rarity, rather than the normal. It is the women who have truly experienced rape or any form of sexual assualt that suffere from the fake claims made. When people believe that there are more and more women faking something so horrible happening to them, it causes people to be less sensitive to the topic and to those who truly suffer from it. 

Although I made the correlation to men being desensitized from rape crimes, there is a general numbing to sexaul assault crimes because they happen so oftern. The fact that there is a level of normalcy to this crime is shameful. It was said in the show by the FBI detective, that rape cases are not given the same time and energy as other casses, which is sad. A crime is a crime, and the police officers and detectives who put on their badge and uniform everyday, living out the oath they made, promising to protect people and fight for justice, should apply to all crimes.  Law enforcement agencies are predominately run by men, and can be a factor as to why sexual assault cases aren’t given the time and attention they deserve. I think this show was insightful, powerful, and displayed a true depiction of how impactful sexaul assault can be in a person’s life, victim or authority working the case. I know for me personally, this has truly heightened my awareness of the depth of the struggles assault victims face, and I can only hope it has done the same for viewers everywhere to take any this desestimacion that has occured in our society.  

One thought on “Unbelievable”

  1. I’m so glad you referred to a moment I had completely forgotten about in the series – that college student who got brought in for questioning – because it really raises all these questions about how to connect the sort of spectacular story of this hunt for a serial rapist with the forms of sexual assault that are even *less* likely to get investigated and prosecuted effectively. (The detectives have to let this suspect go because he’s clearly not their guy, but they do so knowing full well he’s guilty of other crimes and is going to get away with them – chilling.)

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