Marie was raped and then charged $500: The true story of Netflix's new show Unbelievable.

Content Warning: This article contains descriptions of rape and violence and might be upsetting for some readers. 

In 2008, an 18-year-old woman named Marie called the police and told them she had been raped.

The young Washington woman told police that a man had broken into her home, had snuck quietly into her bedroom during the night and then proceeded to blindfold her and rape her at knifepoint for hours on end.

When police detectives arrived at the house they found Marie huddled on the couch, crying while wrapped in a blanket.

But as Marie began to recount the details of what had happened that night the people who listened to her story, the police detectives, her two sets of foster parents and her ex-boyfriend began to become suspicious of her story and the events she was recounting.

The more the police detectives pressed her for information, the more unsure of her own story Marie apparently became.

Take a look at what to expect from Netflix’s new series Unbelievable below. Post continues after video.

She could not describe what her attacker had looked like, saying it had all become a blur. All she was sure of was that after the rapist had left, Marie had managed to retrieve some scissors from the bottom drawer of a cabinet using only her feet and managed to cut her hands free before calling for help.

It was a harrowing story, but as Marie seemed calm in the days following the event, the suspicion grew that she had fabricated the story.

Then just three days after Marie had reported the rape and had been taken to hospital to undergo medical testing, the detectives who had come to her home that night escorted her to the police station and confronted her about the inconsistencies between her statements and accounts provided from other “witnesses”.


Eventually, Marie agreed that she might have dreamt that someone had broke in and raped her.

The case was closed and Marie’s life slowly fell apart. Her foster family doubted her word and distanced themselves from her and her friends cut her out of their lives completely, even going as far as to create public websites labeling her a liar.

Then, in a particularly cruel twist to the story, the police went ahead with charging Marie with filing a false report and she ended up taking a plea deal and had to pay a $500 fine, as if she was the one who had committed the crime by lying to authorities.

Except Marie was not lying.

Marie’s story, along other with the recounts of other rape victims who were all attacked by a man called Marc Patrick O’Leary, were detailed in-depth in an explosive article by ProPublica and the Marshall Project that came out in 2016. T. Christian Miler and Kem Armstrong’s story, An Unbelievable Story of Rape went on to win the Pulitzer Prize.

It also provides the framework for Netflix’s new series Unbelievable.

The Netflix series painstakingly, almost paragraph for paragraph, matches the story told in the article and dramatises the true events of how two female detectives banded together to solve the case.

After a 26-year-old woman in Colorado reported her own brutal rape story to police,  Detective Stacy Galbraith (called Karen Duvall in the Netflix series and played by Merritt Wever) begins tracking the man down but runs into one main problem, the attacker left no traces of DNA behind him after forcing his victim to shower.

When Galbraith’s husband, also a police officer in nearby Westminster, tells her a similar case is being investigated in his own jurisdiction she begins to spot a pattern of behavior.

Detective Galbraith then teamed up with Westminster Detective Edna Hendershot (called Grace Rasmussen in the Unbelievable series and played by Toni Collette) and the two of them tracked down the perpetrator by assembling tiny traces of DNA and listening to the real stories of the women involved.

In this true story of unspeakable trauma, unwavering tenacity, and astounding resilience, the role of Marie is played by Kaitlyn Dever, in a story that truly highlights how victims are often left to shoulder the blame.

All eight episodes of Unbelievable will premiere on Netflix on Friday, September 13. 

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