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HomeentertainmentMovie News'Victim/Suspect' review: A sobering documentary reveals how many sexual assault accusers were...

'Victim/Suspect' review: A sobering documentary reveals how many sexual assault accusers were railed

Sexual assault is one of the least reported crimes in the United States, and perpetrators are rarely prosecuted. However, the headlines would have us believe the opposite: that the legal system is plagued by massive false reports of vengeful and/or deranged women. As for the frustrating disconnect between reality and perception, the eye-opening Victim/Suspect reveals a sinister combination of factors: a tendency to distrust when the subject is raped Plaintiffs, lack the incentives, manipulative interrogation techniques, and horribly antiquated notions of consent that some law enforcement digs for actual evidence in such cases. “He didn’t hold you down, that wasn’t rape,” one accuser recalled being told by a police officer.

As she has done in previous documentaries, the powerful and disturbing Roll Red Roll, director Nancy Schwartzman aims to expose the ways in which victims of sexual assault are often more shamed than people believe. They’re also turned into suspects by the police in the case tried in her new film — not after the investigation found them innocent of the charges, but from the very beginning. In some cases, they were charged and arrested as criminal liars before the rape kit results were processed.


Bottom Line Measured and sometimes confusing, but undeniably important.

Sundance Film Festival (US Documentary Competition)

Director: Nancy Schwartzman

1 hour34 minute

This documentary is also a portrait of investigative journalism, focusing on Bay Area reporter Rae de Leon. Noticing the prevalence of stories across the country of assault accusers who withdrew their charges and then served prison terms for filing false reports, she convinced editors at the Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit, that there was something worth exploring — though it took more than one try to sell what they believe requires a full investigation.

It’s great to see a hard-working reporter putting his energy into something so important, especially considering the atrocious fake news reporting that the film showcases, greatly affecting some of the accusations ordeal. Having layers centered on De Leon doesn’t diminish the impact of the film’s revelations — embracing her dream job as she zips across the country, bumping sidewalks and knocking on doors trying to talk to reluctant law enforcement officers. But it does keep things at arm’s length. The short, self-effacing time spent taking her home or riding her bike to work would be better spent clarifying certain passages about the legal case itself. The reenactments used to flesh out the movie are more of a distraction than a help.

De Leon’s four-year investigation required numerous Freedom of Information Act requests and the involvement of other CIR reporters in combing through the resulting trove of police records. Eventually she collected information on almost 10 cases. Victim/Suspect Focus on two of them. Both women retracted and/or apologized to police, but they maintained their innocence towards De Leon and anyone who would listen.

One of the two cases was unfolding as De Leon reported, and involved Dyanie Bermeo, a college student in North Carolina, after she told police she was beaten by someone posing as a police officer It was not long before he was accused of filing a false report. The second plaintiff, Emma Mannion, met de Leon a few years after she was a student at the University of Alabama. Members of the Tuscaloosa Police Department began a suspicious investigation into her reported rape by questioning her in the hospital ward where she underwent a vaginal exam.

Certainly the most disturbing material in the documentary is the police interrogation footage. Such tapes have become a common element in true crime films and serials; here, as in Making a Murderer, they expose manipulative (but legal) interrogations practices, such as Reid’s citation technique. “I’m breaking down psychological barriers,” a detective assured De Leon. The interviews she filmed with him showed her carte blanche, using her own impressive methods to unravel his masculinity. Police interrogation practices sometimes involve false claims that they have video rebutting the accusers’ allegations. In Mannion’s case, Schwartzman and de Leon punched a major hole in that line of attack.

Interrogation room footage also shows a dramatic disparity in the treatment of plaintiffs and defendants in sexual assault cases — even when defendants are brought into the interrogation room. A Connecticut state detective told De Leon that he never questioned the two college football players accused of rape because they “didn’t want to be interviewed.” In another farce, a defendant, a member of an influential family, was told he had done nothing wrong after chatting with friends about fishing and thanked the officer for a “very thorough job” “.

In contrast, women in these interrogation rooms—sometimes for hours on end—received statements like: “I don’t believe you at all.” Then, Once police decide someone is a liar rather than a victim, a dire cycle begins: They make her “false report” known on social media, leaking her name. In addition to inciting brutal comments from regular trolls, the posts were collected and republished by so-called journalists without the slightest attempt to verify them.

Lawyers and other experts weigh in on miscarriage of justice. Law professor Lisa Avalos describes ‘media obsession’ with ‘gone lover syndrome’ and writes Point out that, by far, the greater risk for both men and women is not that they will be falsely accused of sexual assault, but that they will be assaulted. Carl Hershman, a retired San Diego sex crimes unit detective, explained why many officers would rather close the case after the woman was arrested than spend time investigating her allegations.

Women Talking Director Sarah Polley recently stated on Marc Maron’s podcast that she thinks we are in the midst of a #MeToo backlash. This may explain some of the cases de Leon has investigated, but the problem is deep-rooted and predates any recent social movement; journalists’ work covers years case. Victim/Suspect reveals a terrifying reality that upended the lives of many women. It clearly validates a fundamental truth that many observers have struggled to accept: changing one’s tongue does not prove the absence of a crime, it just proves that mind games work, especially when one is young, innocent and traumatized.

Full credits

Venue: Sundance Film Festival (US Documentary Competition)

Distributor: Netflix
Production company: Motto Pictures, Center for Investigative Reporting Studios

Director: Nancy Schwartzman

Producers: Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Alice Henty, Rachel DeLeon, Amanda Peck, Nancy Schwartzman

Executive Producer: Caroline Hepburn
Director of Photography: Jenny Morello

Production Designer: Arielle Ness-Cohn

Editors: Inbal B. Lessner, Kim Roberts
Music: Morgan Kirby

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