The Netflix series Unbelievable has earned accolades from critics and praise from viewers for its depiction of rape, the criminal justice system and how victims of rape are treated in that system.
It is based on an article from Pro-Publica and The Marshall Project which details how a teenager named Marie was raped in Washington by a serial offender, who went years without being captured while she was charged with lying about her attack.
That aspect of the story has also stirred up anger and rage in some, who take issue with Marie’s two foster mothers for not believing she was raped, and the detective who charged her with filing a false police report.
That anger and rage is misdirected though according to Ken Armstrong, the reporter who broke the story and has remained in contact with Marie over the years.
Marie, who was charged with filing a false report, is played by Kaitlyn Dever (pictured) in Unbelievable
Merritt Wever and Toni Collette play the detectives in the Netflix series (pictured)
‘We’ve seen things like: Why didn’t the foster moms apologize? (They did.) That Marie must hate everyone who doubted her. (She doesn’t.) And that the police probably didn’t learn a thing from this. (They did.)’ wrote Armstrong on Twitter.
He then explained why he views the foster mothers who appear to be working against Marie at almost every turn and the police who charged her as courageous because of what they did after their mistakes.
The police force in Lynnwood, Washington surprised Armstrong the most it seems, with the reporter noting how rare it is to see an officer admit they were wrong.
‘After learning of their mistake, Lynnwood police ordered an internal review. They ordered an external review. (It was scorching.) They accepted blame,’ writes Armstrong.
‘They made changes. They apologized to Marie—in person. The brass apologized. The lead detective apologized.’
He says that the lead detective still struggles with the fact that he charged a victim of rape with a crime.
‘The lead detective told us he was so devastated by his mistake that he thought of quitting the force,’ says Armstrong.
He then shares a story about the time he asked the man if he thought of Marie, saying that he spent close to a minute collecting himself and had to leave the room at one point before he finally stated: Yeah, I do.’
The detective then added: ‘When I think of Marie, it’s more of how she is doing now. I hope that she’s okay.’
In the series, just like the original report, the two foster mothers that Marie tells about her assault express hesitation.
One of those women, after learning that she was not alone in her belief, reached out to police to say that she was not certain about Marie’s story based on how the teenager reacted to the rape.
‘In the series, it’s not easy watching these doubts form, fuse & spread. It’s upsetting. Or worse. Some viewers have judged the foster moms & police with no mercy,’ writes Armstrong.
The serial rapist Marc Patrick O’Leary is pictured in real life
He goes on to say that he has respect for these people though, because they had the courage to own up to their mistakes.
‘Both moms agreed to talk. They shared their mistakes so that others could learn from them,’ writes Armstrong.
‘If you watch Unbelievable & get upset at scenes in which Marie is doubted, please know: The scenes could be reconstructed fully only because the foster moms were so candid & forthcoming.’
The women did this, explains Armstrong, because ‘they don’t want to see such scenes repeated in the lives of others.’
He also explains that Marie and the women are in a good place these days.
‘Both apologized to Marie. Marie accepted their apologies. To this day, Marie keeps ties with both,’ reads one of his tweets.
He then details how each of the women handled their role.
‘The foster mom who called the detective has struggled to process her role in all this. By her own admission, there was initially some denial on her part. But denial turned to acceptance. Acceptance turned to deep remorse,’ reports Armstrong.
‘In the series, the other foster mom is named Colleen. This foster mom, in real life, knew she had to apologize in person,’ he reveals.
‘She and Marie took a walk in the woods. About 100 yards down the trail, she told Marie how sorry she was that she hadn’t believed her.’
He then adds: ‘She told Marie she would understand if Marie never forgave her, if Marie never talked to her again.’
Marie did forgive her though, and Armstrong writes about what happened next that day.
‘She hugged her foster mom. She told her it was OK, that she forgave her,’ he writes.
‘”I’m a forgiving person,” Marie told me. “I was born with that, or something. It might take a while to forgive or trust, but I do forgive.”‘