Netflix Documentary “Victim/Suspect” Exposes the Criminalization of Sexual Assault Victims



Editor’s Observe: The next story incorporates mentions of sexual assault. To succeed in the Nationwide Sexual Assault Hotline, name 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to

Emma Mannion, Nikki Yavino, Dyanie Bermeo. All victims of sexual assault, all handcuffed for having the braveness to talk up about it. By the tip of Nancy Schwartzman’s Victim/Suspect, the stunning documentary launched on Could 23 on Netflix, it turns into crystal clear why anybody, irrespective of the proof, would worry reporting rape to the police. 

Submitting a false report of rape is a misdemeanor punishable by a 12 months in jail. Extra alarming is that it’s 100% authorized for cops to outright lie throughout an interview with an accuser, as long as these lies are used to elicit confession: The sufferer is then successfully handled as a suspect. These lies, from the vantage of a recognized authority, usually immediate the already traumatized sufferer to backpedal on their story or recant it completely. 

A lot of the doc’s appalling content material comes from surveillance footage collected by journalist Rachel (Rae) de Leon at The Heart for Investigative Reporting, who, in 2018, spearheaded an effort to look at the shocking variety of girls arrested nationwide for fabricating allegations. 

Discovering greater than 180 false report circumstances coated by the media over the previous decade, de Leon discerns a sample in how police abuse their energy, and the victims ostensibly of their belief. In a lot of the footage, accusers are grilled for hours inside days of their assault, often within the absence of an advocate or a lawyer. Typically citing “video proof” that by some means contradicts an accuser’s narrative, officers (considerably, each female and male) coerce the victims, largely girls, into retracting their allegations, to allow them to then be charged. At one level, a younger feminine sufferer responds to a detective, “For those who say there’s no video proof [of an assault], I assume I’ve to consider you.”

Rae de Leon and Emma Mannion in Sufferer/Suspect

Emma Mannion’s and Dyanie Bermeo’s circumstances anchor the movie with a nuanced portrait of every younger girl and the way rapidly police invalidated her story to place her behind bars. “You’re not being trustworthy with me, okay?” the officer tells Mannion, a College of Alabama pupil raped after a soccer sport, throughout her interrogation. After being interrogated for almost two hours, earlier than she’s put in cuffs, Mannion really apologizes to the officer for the extra time his group dedicated to investigating the case. In a later scene, Bermeo, a King College pupil who reported a police officer for assaulting her throughout a visitors cease, apologizes for crying as Schwartzman interviews her. Sufferer/Suspect exposes the extent to which girls, conditioned to apologize for any inconvenience, are weak to pressures to take the blame, and even serve time, for their very own violent rapes.

“This occurred to you and now someone is accusing you of mendacity about it?” asks Dr. Lisa Avalos, a authorized professional featured within the movie. “Numerous girls, particularly younger girls, have been cajoled into recanting as a result of that’s how they’ll get out of that state of affairs.” Based mostly on the efforts of de Leon and varied civil rights attorneys, Mannion’s and Bermeo’s circumstances have been overturned, and their information cleaned. However nothing may give them again the years during which they endured intensive psychological harm and public stigma.

In gentle of Harvey Weinstein’s incarceration and E. Jean Carroll’s latest winning verdict in her lawsuit in opposition to Donald Trump (for sexual assault, if not rape), it may appear the tide is altering for victims of sexual assault. Sufferer/Suspect is tough to look at for numerous causes. One such cause is that it exposes how way more work there may be to do — not simply in coaching police items to higher deal with sexual assault circumstances, however in fostering a tradition during which survivors are believed.

Victim/Suspect streams on Netflix starting Could 23.


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