Girl Power

I had already watched this entire tv show before it was a choice for this prompt which was exciting as I knew I could now have a reason to rewatch this amazing show and dig deeper into the meaning. Although this was a gruesome watch, in the end displayed an important message of empowerment, something I didn’t notice when I watched it the first time around.

This show begins to explain the all too common issue our country faces everyday of serial rapists walking the streets freely. The viewers are first put into the show by being told and shown that a young troubled girl, Marie, gets raped by a masked man in her apartment. After clear signs of her being uncomfortable and scared, it seems as if she is almost coerced into retracting her statement by two male detectives as her stories and past are a little off putting. At this point, they completely shove Marie to the side and even charge her with false statements, something she could go to jail for. Immediately, the audience understands the dramatic irony being played out as we have to watch the scene take place over and over again in Marie’s mind.

The most interesting aspect of this show to me was power in each female characters presence and motive. This is shown particularly when we are introduced to the two lead female detectives, Karen Duvall and Grace Rassmussen, begin to search for the same rapist, due to many separate incidences happening very close to them. We learn that within the system, rape cases are more often than not pushed to the side because of homicide cases, something a lot of people deem as more important or catastrophic. Although this is a common speculation in the real world also, rape victims, in most cases, seem to be more traumatized for the rest of their lives than those of the family and friends of homicide cases. Although this is not always true, there is still some accuracy behind this.

Finally, when many women are group together as all violated by the same man, the two powerful detectives work together to find the horrific man behind all of these twisted crimes. Although they are pushed to the side numerous times by different detectives, police officers, and FBI agents, all who are males, they continue on only to find many more victims of similar crimes.

We continue to hear about Marie’s story as although she is suffering through many criminal court system due to this false charge, she is put on probation and everything in her life begins to fall apart. The saddest part about this show is that it takes the last episode for anyone to even believe her. She tells her mandatory therapist that this all happened to her and other girls everywhere because “if the truth is inconvenient, […] they don’t believe it”. However, unknown to her at the time, there are two powerful and successful women trying to find her and give her the truth that no one wanted to believe.

Although this show and message is not trying to discredit every male presence that enters the plot, and that is not what they display. Instead, it emphasizes the importance of female intuition and what it means to do the right thing, even if it isn’t the most convenient or popular. Even after they have the man in custody it is found out that he may have many more pictures of victims on a hard drive that is password protected. Instead of truly caring about this issue, the state prosector gives up and acts like he almost doesn’t care because he is getting what he wants out of the charges.

In the end, The serial rapist is charged with the maximum sentence of 300+ years in prison and will never walk as a free man again. Just as important, he eventually asked to be interviewed to “explain himself” but requests a male interviewers as, ironically, “women make him uncomfortable”.

Although this show is a great display of powerful police work and the intuition of women, the most prominent theme of each episode is the strength within each victim, like Marie. Although these women will never be the same, they each have their own story to tell and life to carry on with. It takes an extraordinary person to be put in a horrific situation like this and come out stronger, and many women of this show did. As Marie was wronged for many things while in the system, she decides she will no longer just take what is given to her and decides to sue the state for these injustices. although they do not go to trial, she is given a great amount of settlement money that allows her to move on and leave her current life. She eventually talks to detective Duvall and explains that although his maximum sentence was great, and the money she recieved was needed, she confides in her that the most important part of everything was knowing that there were two women, from different parts of the country, looking out for her, when no one else was. This female power shown through this show was empowering and convincing and allowed the audience to feel a lot better than an everyday story usually would.

‘Unbelievable’ : Struggles Within Our Justice System

Tradd Stover

‘Unbelievable’ as a film series is wonderfully crafted and details two distinct storylines involving rape cases. In the first, Marie is raped but struggles to remember the details; therefore she is charged for filing a false report. In the second, two detectives work on rape cases from different Colorado counties. These two end up linking as one man has committed the crimes on both sides, finally resolving Marie’s case. This is a broad-stroke overview that I felt could not be left out. Characterization in this series was done to perfection as I was able to connect the details of the instances on screen to real world issues.

Marie is the main protagonist and she grows up a victim for many different reasons: she is in the foster care system, she is abused, etc. She is battered for so long that she is left with no self-worth, no confidence, and no sense of direction in life. That is why after she experiences this horrific assault, she feels like what she says or testifies about will never matter to anyone. It is extremely sad to watch her progress through life alone and desperate, especially in a time when she simply needed one person to believe her. She is run down by detectives to the point that she does not care what happens to her, she just wants it all to be over. The scene where she is in the interrogation room is miserable to watch. I saw two men, who try to come off like they care, running this girl into the ground. Their effort is lazy as they refuse to listen for the truth, simply due to lack of convenience.

Marie’s situation is sharply contrasted by the second strain of protagonists, two hard-nose yet caring detectives. In the second episode, the viewer is introduced to Detective Duvall. She is helpful, strong, and relentless in achieving justice for the victims she is fighting for. She seems to understand the trauma that is caused by something like this and does not dwell on the fact that the victim(Amber) may twist a few details.

This series portrays, to the best of its ability, what it feels like to be someone that no one else believes. Honestly, I had never thought of rape victims in the way that they were portrayed here, or maybe I hoped that it was not this bad. Marie has enough internal struggle already without having something like this happen to her. At first, when I watched the first episode, I thought I had figured the title out. This girl’s testimony is ‘unbelievable’ because her story does not add up, she keeps changing it. However, I learned quickly that the only thing that was ‘unbelievable’ was the behavior of everybody else in her life, especially the detectives.

Marie’s inner struggle is really important in understanding what is taking place throughout the series. She has no-one around her to whom she can go to with an honest mind and tongue. For some of the screen time, I kept wondering why she could not just be honest. I even called my girlfriend to tell her the story because I just could not wrap my head around it. I understood the tolls on her life that her past had created. I also understood how frustrating it was for her when no-one in her life would listen. Yet, I still waited and wished for the detectives to be right about it all, to have been the ones using the right judgement. However, to no surprise, I was wrong.

I do not really know what to compare this to in terms of what he have read throughout the semester. In a way, I kind of see how the rigid but seemingly ‘fair’ system created in “The Furies” comes into play here. In the play, something is ultimately true because other people believe that to be the case. It could be something that is actually as far away from the truth as possible, but because the deciding vote is yes, the verdict is yes. In this instance, the truth is determined by the people in power. Detective Parker uses his status to get whatever answer he needs from Marie, with no regard for the life he is ruining. In contrast, Duvall and Rasmussen use their positions to fight for the weak, to obtain the truest from of justice for the victims.

In terms of what the series does for me as a narrative, I saw it in some ways as a justified rage against the system (which I am usually annoyed by). However, this series is refreshing because it introduces a better way for things to be done. At the end, Marie gets a lawyer who is all for getting her the biggest amount of money from the city as possible. It was beautiful to see how he believed in her and genuinely wanted to help her. Marie’s hope in society and in herself is renewed because of a system that does what it claims to do. Too much in our justice system, that feat is not achieved.

Overall, this is a really rewarding series to watch. Embarrassingly, it made me tear up a few times both out of sadness and anger. I am happy that I chose ‘Unbelievable’.

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.  

Policing and its impact on victims

The show Unbelievable, the mini-series detailing the true stories of a serial rapist, opens by presenting the sexual assault of the first victim, Marie Adler in rural Washington. Marie Adler was addressed by two male detectives, who first speak to her in a contradictory and repetitive manner. They collect evidence from the crime scene without Marie’s help and make her recount her statement multiple times there before taking her to the hospital. When inquiring about Marie, Detective Parker is told by her old foster mother essentially to not believe her, who states she seeks attention and has a troubled past. It is this attack on Marie’s credibility which acts as a catalyst for the detectives to abruptly and completely not believe her. After this conversation, the aggressive tone of the detectives is only amplified and Marie is pressured into saying she was lying.

This depiction of the two male detectives is foiled by the characters of the two female detectives. When the next victim, Amber, is raped in Colorado, Detective Duvall has a procedure she follows and explains to the victim, highlighting the discrepancies between her investigation and the male detectives’. Her investigation includes swabbing the face of the victim, walking her back through the crime scene, speaking to her in private etc. She is diligent about crime scene collection and making sure everything is done to collect as much evidence as possible within a timeframe that it is freshest. This discrepancy of the amount and quality of evidence collected is especially disheartening in the end, when the rapist reveals the most mistakes he made (in terms of leaving traces of DNA, etc.) occurred in Washington. Eventually, Detective Duvall makes a connection with a rape in another jurisdiction investigated by Detecive Rasmussen, and the two females move forward invesitgating together. 

After the decision to fully merge their investigations, Detective Rasmussen says to Detective Duvall “You’re gonna move over to my joint. It’s no offense but we’ve got better toys. We’re gonna bring in the FBI. We’re gonna bring in the CBI. We’re gonna exploit every goddamn resource available to us” (ep. 3). It is this quote that brought my attention to look at how the film portrays the gap between training, resources, and experience between the two pairs of detectives. Not only are the female detectives aware of various resources, seek them out, and employ them, the audience can recognize their specialization as a part of sex crime investigations. With Detective Duvall, her experience (even though she is less experienced out of the two) is implied in her familiarity with the nurses who examine victims, and describes them as being great at their jobs.  

The depiction of resources, experience, and specialized investigations is juxtaposed through cuts of scenes between them and the detectives of Marie Adler’s case. The visual imagery of the female pair’s department shows its breath of resources and specialization: the detectives have their own workspace, a detailed crime lab, available personal, and advanced technology. This is contrasted by the department of the male detectives. They are not specialized in sex crimes investigations and seem to lack in resources in terms of both technology and forensics. It is this juxtaposition though that is exacerbated by the male detectives conduct, which makes them individually responsible for various injustices.

It is the male detectives lack of their own self-awareness of their lack of experience coupled with their pride/ego which make them completely fail at their investigation. Rather than recognizing their own lack of experience in sex crimes and thus actively defining how they recognize rape through Marie, they instead deconstruct her story inaccurately based on their predispositions. Another Detective from a different district, Kirkland, calls this pair after a tip to collaborate based on the similar evidence of their two rapes. Instead of reopening the case and reevaluating their mistake, Detective Parker instead shuts him down by saying it was fabricated. An irony lies in the fact the very details and consistencies they found peculiar enough to disbelieve Marie’s story are the very details which form this connection. This shows Detective Parker’s inability to critically think about the investigation and his willingness to follow the misinformation. Unlike the female detectives who were willing to compare their cases, Detective Parker is not willing to look for evidence to corroborate Marie’s story and get justice for her. He only seeks to falsify it. In the end, it is his Hubris which ultimately causes the investigation to fail. However instead of causing their own downfall, it causes Marie’s. Not only does she not gain justice, they have the audacity to charge her with a crime of false reporting and never apologize. 

Alongside other things we have read in class, I find myself comparing these interpretations to George Orwell’s piece “The Courthouse Ring” and To Kill a Mockingbird. In a sense, I think a connection can be drawn between Tom Robinson and Marie Adler in an opposing yet parallel sense. Tom is innocent being charged with commiting sexual assault because of racial bias towards him. Marie is a sexual assault victim whose perpetrator won’t be prosecuted because of police bias towards her. Tom does not receive justice because of racism of the jurors and the sheriff; Marie does not receive justice because of the bias and misconceptions of the detectives’ and the stepmother’s notions about rape.

I also think it can be interesting to compare Marie Adler with Mayella Ewell, and what a comparison of someone lying and telling the truth about sexual assault can show about the treatment of female complainants. Orwell cites a scholar who critques Atticus’ goal “to expliot a virtual catalog of misconceptions and fallacies about rape, each one calculuated to heighten mistrust of the female complaintant” (TNY). Orwell argues that Atticus asserts Mayella “was so starved for sex that she spent an entire year scheming for a way to make it happen” which is “to swap one set of priveldges for another” (TNY). Orwell demonstrates that while it was appropriate to defend Tom, the construction of a defense based on misconceptions surronding what rape and feminity should look like harms actual victims. For Atticus, he believes Mayella should have been hit on the opposite side of her face and employs the ” ‘she wanted it’ defense” (TNY). For the male detectives and Marie’s step mother, details of the shoelace and knife seem unlikely. Moreover, her emotional response is not what they would anticipate it to be and believe it is a ploy for attention. Both show that the need to deconstruct misconceptions about how sexual assault is shown and reacted to. Without this change, conflations of lying with victimhood can continue occuring, harming true victims as they report crimes committed against their bodies.