Netflix Documentary Reveals Shocking Truth Behind Sexual Assault Investigations


The Netflix original documentary Victim/Suspect chronicles a horrifying reality: Even in the era of #MeToo, we still have a major problem with discounting survivor’s accounts of sexual assault. Nancy Schwartzman’s 2023 Netflix documentary explores that problematic dynamic and exposes our criminal justice system for allowing innocent victims to be humiliated for coming forward. And, in some cases, even criminally charged for their bravery. 

With the help of investigative journalist Rae de Leon, Schwartzman profiles several survivors who reported their assault, only to be accused of deceit by the police. The doc takes an in-depth look at the stories of Megan Rondini, Dyanie Bermeo, Nikki Yovino, and Emma Mannion. Of those four women, one is now deceased and another was sentenced to jail time. 

One of the most uncomfortable aspects of watching Victim/Suspect is being confronted with footage of the survivors being interrogated. Their body language and mannerisms are heartbreaking. Seeing these women who found the inner strength to hold their attackers accountable only to be treated like criminals is soul-crushing.

In Megan Rondini’s case, the interrogation footage shows detectives come down on her like a ton of bricks only to later pal around with the accused perpetrator. As the footage is presented, it seems as though detectives have given the alleged attacker the presumption of innocence while jumping to the conclusion that Megan must be fabricating her story for some selfish gain. 

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It’s bad enough that these young women have had their credibility attacked without good cause. But the damage doesn’t always stop there. Nikki Yovino served time in jail as a result of coming forward. Megan Rondini became so despondent after all she endured that she died by suicide. 

Perhaps not surprisingly, there are numerous instances of questionable investigative tactics employed in the cases profiled in the Netflix documentary. But the most shocking may be that investigators actually misled the women reporting allegations of sexual abuse. That’s horrifying when stopping to consider that the vast majority of people who make allegations of sexual assault are telling the truth. In fact, Schwartzman presents us with evidence that the instances of false reports pertaining to sexual assault are estimated between 2-10%. With a 90-98% chance that the person reporting sexual assault is telling the truth, they should be met with the presumption of innocence and an open mind.

Rae de Leon and a team of journalists spent hours sorting through 52 sets of case documents where victims were labeled as dishonest. Their analysis found only one instance where an exhaustive investigation took place before the conclusion of deception was drawn. In 15 cases, victims were either arrested or had charges pursued against them within 24 hours of making a report. That doesn’t allow much time for a thorough analysis. Shockingly, in as many as half of the cases de Leon looked into, it wasn’t clear if police had even interviewed the suspect.

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It’s eye-opening to see de Leon challenge the findings of these detectives by going back to the scene of the reported assaults and debunking much of what was used by the police as evidence. She collects video footage named in casefiles and tracks down witnesses who were never interviewed, all seemingly suggesting that the detectives who worked these cases were likely experiencing confirmation bias. 

I don’t have all the answers or know exactly how we fix this broken system. But one thing is for sure: We need to do a better job of protecting survivors. It’s an act of bravery to come forward. As such, it’s mortifying to think that the system is routinely punishing people for reporting abuse.

Victim/Suspect reminds viewers that despite any positive progress made in recent years, we’ve still got a long way to go to ensure survivors are treated with respect and given the presumption of truth without fail.

The subject matter of this documentary comes with a heavy trigger warning. But it’s pretty powerful, so I would recommend seeking Victim/Suspect out if you think you can stomach it. Seeing as the documentary is a Netflix original, you can find it streaming there.



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