Trigger warning - SA
There are some TV shows which get so hyped up that I end up staying away from them - I think it's the high expectations that come along with it, the disbelief and then incredulous gasp that people give you when you admit that you haven't watched it yet. "Oh my GOD - you HAVE to watch it, you will LOVE IT". This gets told to me a lot, as I like a good series every now and then, yet the last time I actually watched something that got me hooked was Succession. After the initial first period of lockdown where we were desperate to watch as much as possible to distract ourselves from the shitshow outside, I tried to move away from TV and Netflix, assuming nothing would be released of value during the lockdown. I was mad wrong.
Michaela Coel's I May Destroy You tackles, confronts and successfully attacks the very difficult and often ham-fistedly approached subject of sexual assault. It tells the story of Arabella, a carefree, chaotic yet razor-sharp writer from London who horrifically falls victim to sexual assault in a nightclub, and goes through what many of us in this situation have endured: remembering things as time goes on and experiencing the trauma that comes along with it. Arabella goes on through her life as she has flashbacks of her assault, piecing things together and coming to her own horrific conclusions. We watch as she goes through the cruelly slow judicial system, where she tries to help investigators track down and arrest somebody who she can't even remember or knows the face of.
So - without getting into details, I can say that I, unfortunately, relate to this story. It's something that so many people I know have gone through, both men and women, and continues to be embedded painfully in our society. While movements like Me Too and Time's Up have often paid lipservice instead of a concrete change in many instances, we fail to properly discuss the snail's pace that the judicial system crawls at, the waiting time for the victim, the dirty tricks that are played by the defence and the general trauma that seeps its way into the victim's life, making them irritable, depressed, anxious and even suicidal. People stick around for a while, but, eventually, the victim begins to feel like a burden, a black cloud that pushes people away. There is also little support for people who look after or need to help the victim, leaving them helpless and alone at times. I think this aspect is also beautifully approached in the show, with Arabella's best friend Terry experiencing her own breakdown and struggles in supporting her lifelong friend.
The show is a hard watch, and if you find this topic too difficult to tackle then I would advise you to skip it. There are scenes that I had to pause and even opted out of a few episodes until I felt ready to return to them again. But if you can watch it, I would recommend you definitely do it, maybe with a friend - it opened my eyes to so many aspects of trauma and resilience that I had never thought of, including some of my own unconscious biases towards victims.
If you are interested in the subject further, I'd recommend two books that absolutely blew me away on the subject - again, harrowing reads, but so, so important:
- Asking for It by Louise O'Neill
- Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
- Know my Name by Chanel Miller