Sunday, March 29, 2020


By Co-Editor Prof. Justine Dunlap 

Image1No doubt many of you are practicing social distancing but cuddling up to Netflix. Here’s a recommendation for you: avoid those pandemic movies and watch Unbelievable.   This eight-episode series chronicles the case of a young girl, called Marie, living in foster care, who reports being raped by an intruder. The series is based on a true story reported by ProPublica and The Marshall Project and published in December 2015.  It is compelling.

Back to the story but here’s your spoiler alert: a few details follow.  Marie’s story has holes, inconsistencies. Police officers and others make her repeat what happened repeatedly. Latching onto the inconsistencies, they push and she begins to doubt herself and recants.  She is later prosecuted for filing a false report. While this happens, her rapist moves on and continues raping elsewhere.  Two detectives who catch the cases in other cities believe their victims. They are dogged as well as compassionate.  That’s all I’ll say about the series so I don’t reveal all.

We’ve all heard it: tell the truth, it’s easier to keep your story straight. Turns out, that’s not necessarily true. Trauma affects one’s ability to recall exactly what happened.  Sometimes it is also said: details give a story the ring of truth. But trauma interferes with one’s ability to recall details. The truth may be being told even in an inconsistent story.

So what’s a truth-seeker to do? To paraphrase a former president, believe but verify.  Don’t disbelieve a crime victim just because the crime is sexual assault and the victim is confused. Become educated about the effects of trauma. Do due diligence but don’t gaslight. Oh, and be sure to watch Unbelievable on Netflix. Don’t take my word for it, it was Salma Hayek’s Women’s Day pick.

Gender Violence, Justine Dunlap | Permalink


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