In the thought-provoking documentary, ‘Victim/Suspect,’ a reporter delves into cases where survivors of sexual assault find themselves facing arrest for allegedly making false reports.
The film presents a compelling exploration of this disturbing phenomenon, offering significant and unforgettable insights.
The documentary begins with a scene where three women are seated around a table near a window. The woman in the middle gazes at her companion on the left, who expresses resignation as if she has accepted her fate.
Compared to the abundance of formulaic true crime documentaries available for streaming, ‘Victim/Suspect’ initially appears to follow a familiar pattern. It incorporates an introductory sequence featuring sensational video and audio clips.
However, the film distinguishes itself by presenting a well-crafted narrative that investigates instances where sexual assault survivors face accusations of false reporting, providing meaningful revelations.
Rachel de Leon, a young reporter from the Centre for Investigative Reporting, is in charge of the investigation as it develops in real time. Over several years, de Leon unearths a network of rape survivors who sought justice through the criminal justice system, only to encounter scepticism from law enforcement and coercive tactics that led them to recant their accounts.
Director Nancy Schwartzman focuses on a select group of de Leon’s subjects, allowing them to share their personal stories, some of which have never been disclosed.
By centring the film around de Leon’s journalistic efforts rather than solely focusing on individual experiences, Schwartzman effectively exposes a larger pattern of sexism and intimidation within the police force.
One notable weakness of the documentary is the absence of interviews with the officers who declined to participate.
Instead, de Leon interviews a former detective who sheds light on the practice of diverting rape cases into false reporting charges due to the perception that they require less effort.
While the documentary includes distressing footage of women being bullied by police in interrogation rooms, the lack of a comprehensive explanation from law enforcement is frustrating. However, this omission might be intentional, aiming to highlight the systemic issues at play.
For those interested in watching ‘Victim/Suspect,’ it is currently available on Netflix and carries an R rating. The film runs for approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Support websites for survivors of sexual assault:
- RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network): www.rainn.org
- NSVRC (National Sexual Violence Resource Center): www.nsvrc.org
- The Survivor Network: www.survivornetwork.co.uk
- Joyful Heart Foundation: www.joyfulheartfoundation.org
- MaleSurvivor: www.malesurvivor.org
These websites provide valuable resources, support, and information for survivors of sexual assault globally.