Rape Survivor Whose Harrowing Story Inspired Netflix’s Unbelievable Says Series Is Perfect

by : Emily Brown on : 19 Sep 2019 16:03
Rape survivor says Netflix Unbelievable is perfectRape survivor says Netflix Unbelievable is perfectNetflix

The rape survivor whose story inspired the true crime series Unbelievable has said the depiction of events in the show is ‘perfect’. 


Netflix’s eight-part series was released last week and tells the story of Marie Adler, a woman who was sexually assaulted when she was 18 years old.

The teen reported the rape to police but after mixing up some minor details the authorities questioned why her story didn’t add up. One harrowing scene in the series shows detectives doubting Marie’s story and questioning her over and over about the attack.

At one point, detectives ask if there really is a rapist they should be out looking for. Under pressure from the authorities, Marie, played in the series by Kaitlyn Dever, eventually said she’d lied about being raped.


The scene is hard to watch as it sheds light on the tough process victims have to go through when reporting rape, as well as highlighting how the system failed the teenager. After watching Unbelievable, Marie herself commended the recreation for its accuracy.

She shared her thoughts about the series to Ken Armstrong, who told Marie’s story in the Pulitzer Prize-winning article An Unbelievable Story of Rape. The writer recounted his conversation with the survivor, explaining she’d brought up the interview scene specifically.


Ken tweeted:

She brought up one scene in particular—in the first episode, in which she’s confronted by police and recants.

Marie has told me before that it can be a struggle for her to put her feelings and thoughts into words. In that scene, she said, Kaitlyn Dever captured her struggle.

Marie described the scene as ‘perfect’ in terms of telling her story and added while Unbelievable made her cry ‘quite a bit’, the series was ‘excellent’.

The young woman’s attacker was eventually caught two and half years after her traumatic ordeal, after two detectives investigated a number of other rapes he had committed. It was only then Marie’s story was believed.


As she watched the investigation unfold in the Netflix series, the survivor said she felt the detectives, played in the series by Toni Collette and Merritt Wever, were her ‘guardian angels, looking out for [her]’. It was a sense she’d first had when initially learning about the arrest of her attacker but watching the recreation re-invoked the feelings.

Unbelievable NetflixUnbelievable NetflixNetflix

When it came to watching the series’ attacker get arrested, Marie felt emotions she hadn’t before.

Ken wrote:

Watching the last episode, watching the re-creation of the Colorado detectives closing in, provided Marie something she didn’t expect. ‘Seeing him get put away, that was closure for me,’ she said.

Though police failed to believe Marie’s story when she confided in them, the survivor has said she never regretted reporting her attack as she had wanted to help the police and ensure no one else got hurt.

Unbelievable is available to stream on Netflix now. 

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence contact the Rape Crisis England and Wales helpline on 0808 802 9999 (12-2:30 and 7-9:30). Alternatively you can contact Victim Support on 08 08 16 89 111.

Male Survivors Partnership is available to support adult male survivors of sexual abuse and rape. You can contact the organisation on its website or on its helpline – 0808 800 5005.

Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: Film and TV, Marie Adler, Netflix, Rape, Sexual Assault, Unbelievable


Ken Armstrong/Twitter
  1. Ken Armstrong/Twitter