Is ITV’s new hit Liar damaging for victims of rape?

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Liar is a new hit show that surrounds two sides of one story. The key thing that makes this show interesting to watch is that the audience initially do not know who is telling the truth. However, this fact could mean a huge setback in the response and judgement that rape victims face.

The storyline revolves around Andrew (Ioan Gruffudd), going on a date with Laura (Joanne Froggatt). At the end of the night the two have different versions of events: while Andrew believes he had consensual sex after an amazing date, Laura believes that she was raped. Dealing with such a sensitive topic in this cryptic way may be entertaining for the viewers but it may also have a damaging impact upon real life victims.

*Spoilers ahead*

Although we now know that Andrew did in fact rape Laura, for me, the damage has already been done. The first two episodes where the audience were picking apart Laura’s story in order to make a judgement have forwarded a very negative attitude towards rape victims who come forward without proof. This could be for a number of reasons such as being drugged, as Laura was in the series.

We’ve seen recently in TV dramas such as Broadchurch as well as in real life that victims aren’t believed very often. The victims of Jimmy Savile, Rolf Harris and many other infamous names took years to come forward due to the stigma surrounding rape; and due to this stigma much of the public still believed that they were lying. Will questioning so deeply if Laura was raped rehash a lot of prehistoric stigma in the case of Liar? I believe so.

The first episode made me think about this a lot, and I deduced that there are two sides to this, as over the years the number of women lying about being sexually abused has increased. Therefore, in some views this programme could be a way of shining a light on the fact that the police do sometimes get it wrong. Although this is as beneficial to shine a light on as is disgraceful, the repercussions of suggesting women do lie about rape on television may resurface a lot of stigma and may even stop women from reporting these acts of violence for fear of not being believed.

Beth Dubber/Netflix

It is not just Liar who has been circling around this topic recently. Popular Netflix series 13 Reasons Why has also overlooked the real life victims in order to create entertainment. The scene where Hannah goes to see her school counsellor, Mr. Porter, is a little troubling. She goes there to open up as a last attempt at saving herself. She tells Mr. Porter about Bryce’s attack upon her, and he asked if she regretted her activities with Bryce suggesting she is lying about the nature of the interaction. He also asks if she had been drinking that night, another subtle way of trying to see if Hannah is telling the truth. When admitting she was nervous about going to the police, he simply tells Hannah to move on with her life.

In reality a school counsellor would take these accusations very seriously and would handle Hannah’s case sensitively. However, it’s conveyed to the audience as if school counsellors are ineffective and judgemental. This is the completely wrong message – and sending this message out to thousands of people will deter many from coming forward and also make more people question the victim themselves, which is in itself more crucial and damaging.

Obviously, these two shows are very different from one another, but they send out a very similar message regarding rape. Can we really trust today’s media in a world where perverts are allowed to run countries to portray rape victims in such a way?

See the trailer for Liar which airs every Monday on ITV. 

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