Nothing is more compelling than the truth. And the Netflix original series Unbelievable depicts a true story that is equal parts terrifying and inspiring. Living on a college campus, most of us aren’t strangers to the realities of sexual assault. Unfortunately, often hand-in-hand with these awful crimes, are the additional injustices of victim-blaming or refusal to listen to the truth. Unbelievable follows the story of Marie Adler, a survivor of rape whose life completely crumbles after a man breaks into her home and brutally assaults her.
The show follows two storylines: Marie’s life directly after this devastating attack and three years in the future when two strong female detectives launch an investigation into a serial rapist. Both of these interwoven plots offer so much heartbreak and injustice but ultimately come together to produce an underlying feeling of hope.
In the part of the show dealing with Marie’s life, we learn that there have been two crimes committed against her: one by her rapist and one by the police. While the first is explicit, the second crime is born out of ignorance rather than malice. As Marie tells her story again and again to the police, having to relive the painful memory, they poke holes in it until they come to the very wrong conclusion that she made the entire thing up. If it isn’t enough that the police completely dismiss her case, the fact that the rest of her world (her foster parents, friends, and the press) also believe that she is lying.
Thankfully, the other part of the show reveals that not all law enforcement is this fatally flawed. The two bad-ass, brilliant female detectives that are hunting a serial rapist three years later help to restore our faith in humanity. Being ignorant is the easy choice but putting everything on the line to fight for justice for women you barely know is so powerful, meaningful, and heroic. These women exemplify how all of us should act when someone entrusts us with their truth. They listened, they cared, and they believed.
Throughout both storylines, we encounter many survivors of sexual assault. But all of these people, and in this case all of these women, are so different from one another. There is no uniform age, race, body type, etc. for survivors, and similarly, there is no single way to deal with the trauma of assault. There is no right way to feel or act in the face of horrifying circumstances. Whatever way one does choose to cope should not be used as the measuring rod for whether or not they are telling the truth. Just because something might seem unbelievable to some people, it doesn’t make it any less true.
This show is not a lighthearted or easy series to watch. It’s emotionally trying, and frankly, quite disturbing. But it’s absolutely worth the watch. The messages carried in this show are so important, there is no one who won’t gain insight from watching it. The story is heartbreaking, the acting is powerful, and the show itself is revolutionary.
Cover Photo: Netflix