OP: Netflix series Unbelievable captures the gruling truth of sexual assault

Netflix's new original series does an admirable job of portraying a harrowing event.

Netflix recently released an eight-episode limited series last month. The series is about the assault and rape of 18-year-old Marie Alder in Lynnwood, Washington. Marie was sleeping in her apartment when a mask-covered man broke in, tied her down with her shoe laces, and raped  her. He then continues to take photographs of her. These exact photographs of her were not found until three years later in Colorado by a different team of detectives.

In the beginning of this story,  Marie’s assault takes place in 2008. Alder spent her entire life going through different foster homes. After she turned 16, there was a program available for troubled teens conducted by social services. She decided to leave her foster home and live in the apartment complex owned by the social services program. She left behind her most recent foster mother Judith. Judith was the first person to arrive at Marie’s apartment after the assault. 

Right after Marie was assaulted, Det. Parker goes right into asking questions about the assault. He asks her right away to think about what happened. After answering what feels like 50 questions, Marie is then asked to write down, in detail, an entire retelling of the assault from start to finish. Obviously seeing how disconnected and in pain Marie is, I had to pause the series for a minute. I could not understand how someone who was just assaulted, having to retell everything that happened twice. Not once, but twice. I did not know at the time that Marie would have to be questioned about her legibility of her assault more than twice. 

After writing down her retelling of her assault, the police then questioned her again. This time, Det. Parker brought in his colleague Det. Pruitt. They both sat down and questioned Marie for a fourth time. When the camera panned to her face, she was panicking. It was all too much. All she could see or hear was the man who broke into her home and objectified her. I sat there watching as if I was sitting in that room with her. I felt disgusted, I had a headache, and I wanted to scream at the two detectives questioning her. 

I wanted to scream because what unfolded before me was only the beginning of terrible police work. I was screaming because of all the countless women this exact situation has happened to. I was screaming because this was real.

Marie Alder is not just a character apart of this series. She is a real person that experienced this. This scene playing on my TV was apart of a true story, an exact memory of this woman. In early 2015, Pulitzer-Prize-winning reporters T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong of ProPublica wrote an article called “An Unbelievable Story of Rape” where it tells the story of a young teenager in the state of Washington. This young teenager was Marie. But, in reality, her real name was never Marie. In the ProPublica article, Marie is her middle name and her first and last name were never released. 

Just as it appears in the Netflix series, Marie was raped and not believed by the detectives investigating the assault. She was accused of false reporting and was fined $500. She had to go to counseling and admit to the social services program that she made her entire assault up. Her friends in the program stopped talking to her and made sure to avoid her. They all thought she was heinous and toxic to create something as terrible as an assault. 

Three years later, two detectives in Colorado named Stacy Galbraith and Edna Hendershot, caught a serial rapist who was torturing women and taking pictures of them. On the last picture that they recovered, they found the picture taken of Marie three years prior. This is the picture that the detectives in Washington did not believe existed. Marie was notified that they found the serial rapist and Marie decided to sue the city and the police department in Lynwood, WA. She was able to get $150,00 dollars in return. 

This is a series that everyone needs to watch. It is difficult to see how much pain Marie goes through, but we need to see that pain. That pain is real. This actually happens to women all over the world. Katilyn Denver, who plays Marie, is incredible. She told Marie’s story in a way that could help other rape victims feel seen and as if they are not alone. Toni Collete and Marritt Wever, who played the detectives from Colorado, also give a bigger spotlight to something that needs to be talked about. There needs to be a better justice system and better protection for these victims who counted on the police to do their jobs. If it was not for the hard work of the detectives in Colorado, Marie would never have been given the justice she deserves.

In late September of this year on a Saturday afternoon, WMU Public Safety reported that there had been a sexual assault reported on campus. The assault was said to have happened near the Lawson Ice Arena around 3 and 5 p.m. As there is limited information available about the assault on campus, this gives us the reminder that rape and sexual assaults are something that need to be talked about. This is happening today, tomorrow, and the next day. We have to be aware and we have to support the victims of these assaults. This Netflix series is going in the right direction because these are real people with real lives and unfortunate experiences. They have names, they have families, they have friends. We need to come together as a society and show that they are not alone and never will be alone.


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