10 Movies About Sexual Assault and Abuse

Home  »  Sex Crimes   »   10 Movies About Sexual Assault Survivors and the #MeToo Movement

10 Movies About Sexual Assault Survivors and the #MeToo Movement

10 Movies About Sexual Assault Survivors and the #MeToo Movement

Sep 25, 2023

Stories of sexual assault from the perspectives of survivors have become more commonplace through film and television in recent years, particularly in the wake of the #MeToo Movement. In the fall of 2017, the public was alerted to the prevalence of sexual violence after investigative reports uncovered the rampant abuse committed by former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. But that level of attention on a mass scale wasn’t achieved until over a decade after the #MeToo Movement’s founder, Tarana Burke, began calling out sexual assault as a systemic problem in 2006.

Stories of survivors and the brutal sexual abuse they often endure can be brought to life through film and help to educate and inform the public as to the widespread nature of this type of crime. Below we will provide information on movies that deal with the sensitive and disconcerting topic of sexual violence.

Information for Survivors on Viewing Media Depicting Stories of Sexual Assault

While movies and television can be impactful tools which help to increase public awareness about sexual violence, they can also be triggering for survivors. Dordulian Law Group’s founder and president, Sam Dordulian, is a member of the National Leadership Council for RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence nonprofit organization.

RAINN has compiled some helpful information for survivors who may be considering viewing movies or TV shows depicting sexual violence. They offer the following tips for sexual assault survivors on consuming media:

  • You are in control: “You never have to watch something to prove you can handle it. If you go to a movie and find it upsetting, feel free to leave. If your favorite weekly television show includes a scene you find upsetting, it is ok to turn it off for five minutes. You don’t have to watch anything you don’t want to.”
  • Pay attention to the warnings: “If you’re concerned a movie or television show might make you feel uncomfortable, read ahead. TV Guide blurbs, movie reviews, and explanations of ratings can give you a sense of the content. If you want to watch but are still a little nervous, plan to view in a space that feels safe for you, such as your home, rather than a crowded theater.”
  • Remember, this isn’t the whole story: “Often, movies and television shows leave out the most critical part: the healing process. It can take a long time for a survivor to move forward-but that doesn’t necessarily make for entertaining content. Movies and television shows might emphasize the drama of the survivor experience over the positive steps forward.”

10 Movies that Focus on Sexual Assault and Abuse Survivors’ Stories

** The following movies contain storylines depicting sexual violence which may include graphic and disturbing scenes. These images can be particularly distressing for survivors of sexual assault, and limiting one’s exposure to this type of material may be advisable.

  1. Spotlight: Based on true events, the film chronicles the team of investigative reporters at the Boston Globe who exposed rampant and systemic sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. After breaking news of cover-ups at the highest level within the city’s Archdiocese, the investigation led to over 600 stories about the scandal being published in 2002. 249 priests and brothers were publicly accused of sexual abuse within the Boston Archdiocese, with over 1,000 childhood survivors believed to have been affected. In the film, actor Stanley Tucci plays the role of Mitchell Garabedian – the Boston attorney who represented countless victims. In a memorable scene, Garabedian says to one of the journalists, “Mark my words… If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.”
  2. Bombshell: The film follows multiple high-profile workplace sexual assault cases brought against former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes. The stories of Gretchen Carlson, Megyn Kelly, and Kayla Pospisil are depicted through actors Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, and Margot Robbie, respectively. In 2016, Fox News paid out a $20 million settlement to Carlson and issued what Vanity Fair referred to as an “unprecedented apology” for decades of alleged sexual misconduct perpetrated by Ailes.
  3. She Said: Based on the book of the same title, the film chronicles two New York Times journalists – Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor – whose 2017 investigative report exposed the countless sexual assault allegations against former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Following the article’s publication, at least 82 women came forward with personal allegations of sexual assault, abuse, and misconduct committed by Weinstein.
  4. The Last Duel: Released in 2021, the historical action film based on a 2004 book tells the story of a brutal rape committed by a squire in 14th century medieval France. The victim’s husband petitions King Charles VI for justice to be decided by a duel – trial by combat which would declare the combatant left alive the winner.
  5. Wind River: The 2017 film follows an investigation into the rape and murder of an 18-year-old girl on an American Indian reservation in Wyoming. Jeremy Renner plays the role of a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Agent who teams with Elizabeth Olsen, playing the role of an FBI agent.
  6. North Country: Based on Clara Bingham’s 2002 book, Class Action: The Story of Lois Jenson and the Landmark Case That Changed Sexual Harassment Law, the film chronicles systemic sexual harassment occurring in a Northern Minnesota iron mine. The film’s main character is sexually assaulted by a co-worker and files a lawsuit which leads to a landmark change in workplace sexual misconduct policies.
  7. Sleepers: One of the first films to explore the subject of childhood sexual abuse impacting boys, Sleepers follows the story of four friends who are sent to a juvenile detention center after a prank gone awry seriously injures a man. Based on a book by the same name written by Lorenzo Carcaterra, the film takes place at the Wilkinson Home for Boys in Upstate New York where the guards repeatedly abuse and torture the inmates. Featuring Brad Pitt, Kevin Bacon, Robert De Niro, Minnie Driver, Dustin Hoffman, and Jason Patric, Sleepers culminates in an attempt at revenge through the justice system that is inspired by The Count of Monte Cristo written by Alexander Dumas.
  8. Promising Young Woman: Featuring Cary Mulligan in the starring role, the film tells the story of a woman seeking vengeance on men who sexually assault women under the influence at clubs and bars. After her classmate is raped and the perpetrator incurs no consequences by either the school or legal system, Mulligan’s character spends her evenings feigning drunkenness only to eventually reveal her sobriety just as men are about to take advantage of her in their homes.
  9. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: Based on the 2005 novel by Stieg Larsson, the film follows a journalist investigating the 40-year-old disappearance of a girl from a wealthy family. The journalist, played by Daniel Craig, teams up with a hacker, played by Rooney Mara, who has just been brutally attacked and raped by her state-appointed guardian (and eventually takes vengeance in an extremely graphic way). The pair uncover countless instances of sexual abuse committed by wealthy men over the course of several decades.
  10. The Accused: Based on the true story of survivor Cheryl Araujo, a young woman who was brutally gang-raped in 1983 by four men at a bar in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the film stars Jodie Foster and Kelly McGillis. Despite her pleas for help, Araujo was sexually assaulted for hours as several patrons stood by and watched. The rape case, which drew worldwide media attention in the early ’80s, was beset by what’s now considered to be unconscionable victim blaming. The trial was televised and led to four convictions of aggravated rape (with two acquittals), although the longest sentence any of the perpetrators served was six years.

Additional Movies About Sexual Assault, Abuse, and Misconduct

A Time to Kill: Based on the bestselling novel by John Grisham, the film follows the trial of a father accused of murdering the two men who abducted, beat, and raped his 10-year-old daughter. Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Matthew McConaughey, and Sandra Bullock, A Time to Kill was one of the first films to include a storyline depicting the brutality of child sexual abuse.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Released in 2017, the film follows a Missouri mother who rents three billboards in a rural town in an effort to highlight the unsolved rape and murder of her daughter. Starring Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, and Woody Harrelson, the film garnered critical acclaim and won numerous awards.

Return to Sender: A 2015 thriller starring Rosamund Pike and Shiloh Fernandez, the film follows the main character as she concocts a revenge scheme against the man who raped her on a blind date.

Precious: Adapted from the 1996 novel – Push by – Sapphire, the film portrays a young woman who has endured physical abuse from her mother as well as sexual abuse from her father. The rapes perpetrated by the main character’s father lead to two pregnancies – with one of the children being born with Down syndrome. The main character, played by Gabourey Sidibe, seeks a better life with a chance at new beginnings after giving birth to her second child.

The Tale: Released in 2018, the HBO film is based on the true story of a woman who reexamines her childhood memories of sexual assault after a relationship with an older man. Following the film’s release, survivor and writer/director Jennifer Fox revealed in an interview with the New York Times that the perpetrator was Ted Nash – a two-time Olympic medalist in rowing and nine-time Olympic coach.

Information for Sexual Assault Survivors Wishing to Pursue Civil Justice

If you’re a survivor of sexual violence – whether rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, or sexual harassment – and would like to discuss the possibility of filing a civil lawsuit against your perpetrator, contact Dordulian Law Group for a free and confidential consultation. Our dedicated Glendale, California, sexual assault attorneys are available 24/7 to answer any questions you have. Reach out to a member of our team today by calling 866-GO-SEE-SAM.

If you experienced a sexual assault incident, don’t wait to file a claim. Contact our expert attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.

Sam Dordulian is a former Los Angeles County sex crimes prosecutor who founded Dordulian Law Group (DLG) in 2007. Dordulian created DLG as a unique sexual violence firm offering survivors access to much-needed resources in addition to expert legal representation – including mental health services and victim advocate support. DLG’s four-tiered SAJE Team (Sexual Assault Justice Experts) includes a team of attorneys, an in-house licensed clinical therapist, an in-house victim advocate, and an in-house private investigator and retired LAPD sex crimes detective. Dordulian and his proven team represent survivors of all forms of sexual violence in civil court.

Go See Sam