Rondini’s story is harrowing enough on its own — yet, she’s not alone. Leon interviews numerous young women and their family members on similar experiences with law enforcement. While statistics are hard to come by (something Leon addresses), experts suggest that less than 1% of reported sexual assaults are false allegations. And of course they are rare because getting a rape kit and spending hours with police officers in a cold interrogation room isn’t exactly pleasant. It reminds me of a tweet I saw once where someone asked if Canadians hurt themselves all the time for free health care. Uh, no, we don’t, because the cost (physical pain) far outweighs the potential gain (a cool cast? Spending time with doctors? Really not sure what the thought process was for this one).
So why did the Tuscaloosa police pressure these women into recanting their statements? Because it’s easier. Solving crimes is hard and requires time, energy, and manpower. And in places like Tuscaloosa, there are clearly biases against these women. In the case of Megan, she was discredited because she was 20 years old and was black-out drunk. I’d argue that a grown man bringing home and then having sex with a girl in that condition is far from “consensual” (as the police officer repeatedly framed it) but what do I know? I’m not a cop.
It’s sometimes hard to review documentaries like “Victim/Suspect” because the content is so upsetting, it’s not really possible to enjoy the film. And we aren’t assessing the artistic merit or creative elements like the acting or the writing. Nothing was particularly groundbreaking or innovative. In terms of it being a documentary, I think Leon and Schwartzman are both doing strong work, and it’s nice to see the women getting a platform to share their stories. The Netflix documentary is also careful to not paint all police officers as guilty of this mindset, and it does present a strong case for how better training and better resources could help prevent these kinds of miscarriages of justice in the future. Still, “Victim/Suspect” presents a pretty damning portrait of the policing institution in America right now (especially the south), and it’s going to take some serious time and effort to regain the public’s trust.
/Film rating: 7 out of 10