No one is talking about the way Orange is the New Black handled one brutal scene.


It was a season that presented some of the most nuanced character development ever seen on modern TV.

Nestled among the shocking murder of Poussey and the slow-moving train wreck of Nicky’s return to drug use in season four of Orange is the New Black was the follow-on story of  inmate Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett and prison guard Charlie Coates.

Raped by Coates, her prison guard turned boyfriend in season three, Doggett returned to our screens to grapple with something that most of us can only consider in our worst nightmares, and then figure out how she was going to make it through to the other side.

And the show’s telling exploration of this was powerfully on point.

Here’s why. Listen to Rosie Waterland, Laura Brodnik and Katy Hall discuss this heartbreaking scene on The Binge:

Sometimes there is the presumption that rape is only committed by evil men lurking in alleyways late at night, but when we actually look at the facts and figures we know it’s not.

Statistic after statistic tells us that.

So what does happen when you’re raped by someone you’re in a relationship with?

What happens when the person attacking you is someone that you feel you love?

What happens when you’ve been raped so many times that you don’t fight back anymore?

On top of that, what happens when the rapist themselves doesn’t understand that their actions even constituted as rape?

oitnb rape

Source: Orange is the New Black / Netflix.

Beginning with her backstory episode in season three it became evident that, like many women, Doggett's understanding of consensual sex - and more specifically sex within relationships - was distorted from an early age.

Speaking to her mother about her period when she is just 10, the future Litchfield Penitentiary inmate was told, "boys are going to be looking at you different…just let them do their business with you. Hopefully, they will be quick like your daddy.”

A montage followed, detailing years of Tiffany's life of trading sex for beer and other nondescript items, it then became apparent that Doggett has only ever experienced one loving, consensual relationship in her life.

oitnb rape

Source: Orange is the New Black / Netflix.

So why did writers decide that Doggett - an imperfect character that viewers struggled with constantly - would be raped by a man she seemed to be falling for?

Why did they make us watch her face so intently throughout the experience, despite all of us hoping the camera would pan out to something else?

Because that's what rape looks like for a lot of people.

It happens to flawed people that we don't always like. It happens to people who have a sexual history. It happens by people who don't have a history of raping their previous partners.

Sometimes that person is the one who says they love you. Sometimes you don't even really realise it's rape. Sometimes, like Coates, who thought saying he loved Doggett "makes it different," they don't either.


Three out of four times a person will be raped by someone they know.

And like Poussey's death bringing the Black Lives Matter movement to screens, writers used Doggett to confront another growing social issue we can't continue to look away from.

Doggett and Boo on Orange is the New Black. Post continues... 

We're still not sure where the relationship with Doggett and Coates will go, and maybe the writers left it that way for a reason.

But one thing that became glaringly obvious throughout the story development was that despite the unfold being excruciatingly hard to watch, we needed to see it.

By making us watch this life-changing instant in Doggett's life and going on to dedicate an entire season to the fallout, Orange is the New Black observed and respected the fact that the residue of rape lasts for far longer than the act itself ever will.

And the more that scenes and story lines like those of Doggett and Coates make their way to our screens, the closer to reality we actually get.

For the full OITNB deep dive, subscribe to The Binge in your podcast app, and hear Katy Hall with Rosie Waterland and Laura Brodnik discuss: