What is Victim/Suspect about? Netflix true crime documentary explained

Daisy Phillipson
Rae de Leon in Victim/Suspect

Victim/Suspect, a shocking and poignant new true crime documentary, has arrived on Netflix – here’s what it’s about, who’s in it, and if it’s worth watching.

Netflix’s true crime backlog features numerous documentaries that hold up a magnifying glass to the issues of injustice, from 13th and Trial 4 to Making a Murderer and Broad Daylight: The Narvarte Case.

There’s no way to watch these movies and series without feeling a sense of anger and frustration, and yet they’re important, highlighting the injustice and corruption that permeates society while often offering a glimmer of hope or a call to action. 

The latest entry, Victim/Suspect, is bound to get your blood-boiling – with the doc now available to stream on Netflix, here’s what you need to know. 

What is Victim/Suspect about?

Helmed by Red Red Roll director Nancy Schwartzman, Victim/Suspect is a feature-length documentary centering on a journalist’s investigations into numerous cases of young women who reported their sexual assaults. But rather than the police investigating the cases thoroughly, they accused these women of lying and arrested them for filing false reports – despite evidence showing they were telling the truth. 

Check out the trailer below: 

The official synopsis reads: “On her first solo investigation, journalist Rae de Leon travels nationwide to uncover a shocking pattern: Young women tell the police they’ve been sexually assaulted, but instead of finding justice, they’re charged with the crime of making a false report, arrested, and even imprisoned by the system they believed would protect them.”

Netflix’s Tudum went on to say that de Leon’s research led to her uncovering a shockingly high number of these cases across the US. Victim/Suspect features firsthand accounts from numerous women, while the journalist chases down interviews with police and legal experts. 

What’s more, de Leon presents evidence from the initial investigations of these cases, including disturbing footage of cops using coercive interrogation tactics to question the sexual assault incidents and attempt to pressure the women into withdrawing their claims before charging them with making false police reports. 

Tudum added: “Nothing about what transpires for the women in the film is easy to digest, but the story that unfolds from that discomfort raises crucial questions about how the criminal justice system views and treats sexual assault victims – and what’s being done to change it.”

Who’s in Victim/Suspect?

The Netflix documentary focuses on the four-year investigation led by journalist Rachel “Rae” de Leon, who uncovered the sinister pattern of cases in 2018. A lot of Victim/Suspect was filmed in real time during de Leon’s first independent investigation for the Center for Investigative Reporting, a non-profit investigative journalism organization.

De Leon is joined by journalist and filmmaker Amanda Pike, who served as producer on Victim/Suspect, and was equally as shocked by the volume of cases that came to light. 

One of those highlighted in the documentary is that of Connecticut college student Nikki Yovino, who was convicted of making false rape allegations against two Sacred Heart University football players in 2016. Dyanie Bermeo’s case was shockingly similar, having been turned from a victim to a suspect by the police after reporting being sexually assaulted.

Rae de Leon and Emma Mannion in Victim/Suspect
Rae de Leon and Emma Mannion in Victim/Suspect

Another is Emma Mannion. Just 18 years old at the time, the University of Alabama student reported that she had been sexually assaulted by two men who forced her into the backseat of a car. But rather than understanding and help, Mannion was met with skepticism and blame, eventually leading to her arrest. 

Shockingly, these two cases are just a drop in the ocean, as is explored in the film. 

In a conversation with the SF Chronicle Datebook, Pike said: “We thought it was a small story, but then Rae kept finding more and more cases. We realized this is systemic. It’s not just one or two police officers, it’s nationwide.”

Elaborating on the importance of making Victim/Suspect and giving these women a platform to share their stories, de Leon told Tudum: “I always thought we needed to retell their narratives, because they were stolen from them from the very beginning. It was about offering them a space to finally tell it from their point of view.”

Schwartzman added: “All we can offer anyone is the opportunity to speak their truth, and we have to ask them to trust us. That’s absolutely up to them. Getting to share their story and hear people’s outrage and support on their behalf will, hopefully, feel really good.”

Is Victim/Suspect worth watching?

Though it’s a disturbing watch, Victim/Suspect plays an important part in highlighting the pitfalls of the US justice system and law enforcement’s treatment of sexual assault, while also giving the survivors a platform to speak the truth. The Netflix documentary currently has a 72% Rotten Tomatoes score from the critics. 

As for the reviews, The Hollywood Reporter said Victim/Suspect is “measured and sometimes muddled, but unquestionably important,” and that the film “illuminates a horrific reality that has upended many women’s lives.”

Dyanie Bermeo in Victim/Suspect
Dyanie Bermeo also bravely shares her story in the doc

IndieWire added: “It’s all so very sober, so deeply sobering, that when actual emotion pops (a sequence in which de Leon starts crying during a pitch meeting, as she walks her colleagues through the story, is a staggering reminder of the real price of all of this), that’s what jars. It shouldn’t be the case – all of this should rattle us and move us into action.”

Elsewhere, The Daily Beast wrote: “Via the heartfelt testimonials of Mannion and Bermeo, as well as the commentary from experts such as Dr Lisa Avalos and former San Diego Police Department officer Carl Hershman, Schwartzman’s film provides depressing and damning insight into a system rigged in favor of those who should be under the harshest spotlight, and at the expense of those most in need.”

Not all of the reviews have been favorable, however, with RogerEbert.com stating that while the subject matter is important, “Victim/Suspect suffers from the Netflix brand of overproduction, looking just a little too flashy and sinking everything with voiceover and interview sound bites that have been scripted to death.”

Victim/Suspect is available to stream on Netflix now. You can check out our other Netflix hubs below: 

The Night Agent Season 2 | The Gentlemen | Will there be Firefly Lane Season 3? | Sex Education Season 4 | Beef Season 2 | Monster Season 2 | Will there be Ginny and Georgia Season 3? | Black Mirror Season 6 | All the Light We Cannot See | Stranger Things Season 5 | The Witcher Season 3 | Chicken Run 2 | Heartstopper Season 2 | FUBAR | Florida Man Season 2 | Obsession Season 2 | The Sandman Season 2

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