In the first episode of the Netflix original series, Unbelievable, we meet an 18-year-old woman who goes by the name Marie Adler. She was in her Washington State home, subsidized by a program made to help kids transition from foster care, when she was faced with a knife-wielding rapist. Marie goes to the proper authorities but becomes the one being interrogated. (warning: spoilers ahead)
Unfortunately she ends up being brought to court over filing a false report where she accepts a plea deal. In the meantime, in another U.S city, a woman is brutally attacked at gunpoint and two female officers begin to puzzle together several different, geographically spread out cases of assault.
The story behind Unbelievable is actually based off of an entirely true story. Journalists T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong, for ProPublica and The Marshall Project respectively, published an article in 2015 titled, “An Unbelievable Story of Rape.” Together, they talked with Marie and other victims to find out why Marie’s case was so easily dismissed. They wanted to find out why or how Marie went from reporting that she was raped to admitting that she had lied about it.
One of the reporters, Ken Armstrong, created an entire Twitter thread about his admiration of the show and shared Marie’s thoughts on the show as well. After the show premiered, Armstrong got a call from Marie and the two discussed the show. Armstrong Tweeted about the exchange writing, “watching it was hard, she said. ‘I did cry quite a bit,’ she said. But she decided she wanted to and was glad that she did. She called the show ‘excellent.’”
According to Armstrong, Marie also praised the actress who portrayed her. “Marie has told me before that it can be a struggle for her to put her feelings and thoughts into words,” he wrote. “In that scene, she said, Kaitlyn Dever captured her struggle. ‘It was, like, perfect,’ she said.”
Marie, as shown in Unbelievable, was a foster child for most of her life. At the time of her court case, both of her previous foster parents didn’t believe her claim. Fortunately, Marie ended up forgiving them and they still have a strong relationship. She and Armstrong discussed how her foster parents had felt about the series. He explained, “After finishing the series, Marie called both, to reassure them: The show doesn’t demonize you. She encouraged both to watch.”
The victim also revealed to Armstrong that Unbelievable gave her a sense of closure. He wrote, “And 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.”