Warning: This article contains descriptions of traumatic events, including rape, which some readers might find upsetting.
“Even with people that you can trust, if the truth is inconvenient, they don’t believe it.”Netflix’s original series “Unbelievable” is just that - unbelievable. The show is centered around 18-year-old Marie Adler (played by Kaitlyn Dever), who reports her own rape, and the spiral of emotions she suffers when she is forced to recant her story after police question her credibility. Based on a true story and filmed through the eyes of the victim, Netflix is creating a clear shift in the way we consume true crime.
A first of its kind, “Unbelievable” tells the unforgiving and shockingly honest story of the aftermath that sexual assault has on its victims. Previously, people were afraid to mention sexual assault because it was touchy and could make viewers uncomfortable. But uncomfortable or not, we need to talk about it.
“Unbelievable” Shows the Effects of Victim BlamingIn the hours after Marie’s attack, she is forced to explain her story to multiple officers who convince her she is lying. Feeling as if no one believes her, Marie’s emotional struggle deepens. When the story hits the media, things only get worse. Marie, with no one in her corner, begins to blame herself. Often, victims of sexual assault express that a reason they did not come forward sooner is because they felt it was their fault or that no one would believe them.
While brave enough to report her assault, Marie was victimized again for her courage. This is not okay. Our society needs to stop assuming that victims are making up stories because of regret. We need to stop asking what victims were wearing. We need to start believing. At Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC)’s Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) and Domestic Violence (DV) Program, patients are believed. Our SAFE/DV Program provides confidential sexual assault and domestic violence services in a non-judgmental atmosphere with specially trained staff at no cost to the patient. We are available 24/7, 365 days a year, our doors never close.
“Unbelievable” Touches on the Work of a Forensic Nurse - But Isn’t AccurateWhen Marie visits the hospital for a forensic examination, also known as a “rape kit”, viewers are introduced to a forensic nurse who is cold, avoids eye contact, makes zero connection to Marie, and most importantly, does not give Marie control over her own exam. This nurse lacked compassion and neglected to make Marie her priority by talking TO her instead of WITH her.
The forensic nurses of GBMC’s SAFE/DV Program are the exact opposite, treating each patient as they would their own loved ones. They make a connection with the patient, explain their processes, answer any questions, and much more. While collecting biological forensic evidence is important, the health and well-being of their patients is always the number one priority.
“We see patients who come in on the most traumatic time in their lives, so being able to hold their hand and be with them and just let them know that you believe them and that you will help them through the process is really rewarding,”Unlike the show, the forensic nurses at GBMC don’t stop working when they leave the hospital. They play such an integral part in investigations and prosecution. Eventually they take the stand as an expert witness to testify about the exam process, findings, and evidentiary collection. GBMC’s forensic nurses serve as patient advocates within the healthcare system and within the community, continuously working to educate those who may encounter victims of sexual violence.Ashley McAree, BSN, RN, FNE-A/P, CFN, SANE-A, in A Day in the Life of a GBMC SAFE Nurse.
“Unbelievable” Brings the Harsh Reality of Our World to LightSadly, “Unbelievable” shows the harsh reality of our world. When will this come to an end? When will victim blaming stop? Netflix is taking the right steps by exposing the public to the traumatizing effects of rape through the eyes of the victims. Will it be enough? Let’s hope “Unbelievable” is just one of the pieces that starts the conversation for change.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual assault or domestic violence and wants to seek help, contact GBMC’s SAFE and DV Program at 443-829-3323, or visit gbmc.org/safe-dv for more resources.