My Friend the Rapist, My Friend the Survivor

Each year I join the pre-selection committee of the Monte Carlo TV Festival Golden Nymph Awards. I truly love this experience because it exposes me to a whole bunch of top flight global television that I maybe wouldn’t otherwise get to see, and my life is definitely richer for it. Over time, it’s been interesting to note the content, developed all around the world, comes in thematic waves. Two years ago it was Nazism, last year, immigrants, and this year there are several entries about the rape and abuse of women. (the above image is Emily Mortimer in Apple Tree Yard.)

Interestingly, it would so far appear that rapes in these series are not chucked in as plot points or useful mechanisms for driving the drama (I’m looking at you Christopher Nolan) but as devastating pivotal moments in the lives of real human beings. Whether this approach is because of increased awareness of global activism – #MeToo and #BalanceTonPorc – or instead a cynical ratings ploy of commissioning editors jumping on bandwagons, remains to be seen. Perhaps it’s both? Film, after all is both a reflection and a driver of culture.

I’m musing on this now because the issue is close and personal. Back in 2016, one loved-and-trusted friend raped another loved-and-adored friend in her bed in her own home, while her children were sleeping. I had to face the fact that while he is otherwise a good, kind man, he is also a rapist, and my friend the survivor will carry the burden of this duplicity for the rest of her life.

Luckily, (remarkably?) the South African system proved to be awesome; everyone, from Rape Crisis operators to the doctors and nurses at the hospital to the police to the court-appointed lawyers, performing their work with exceptional kindness and diligence. Everyone, that is, except my own friends; in spite of them being (allegedly) educated, well-read, informed, well-travelled and exposed activism against women abuse, they preferred to “take his word for it” – right up to (and even beyond) the moment he was sentenced to ten years in jail for his crime. The rape was one ordeal, the 18 month denial of it by people close to us, quite another altogether. (They are no longer friends.)

So what I’m saying, I think, is – I don’t really care WHY rape is a “mode du jour” of international television content right at the moment, as long as the message is getting out, and it’s getting out loudly and widely.