Top 10 Sexual Assault Documentaries

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Top 10 Documentary Films Examining Sexual Assault

Top 10 Documentary Films Examining Sexual Assault

Dec 15, 2022

The #MeToo Movement has promoted a greater awareness of sexual assault on both a national and global level. While much progress still needs to be achieved, the prevalence of sexual violence is much better understood and appreciated by the masses when compared to only a few years ago.

As the systemic nature of sexual assault and misconduct has been exposed – whether in the workplace, on dating apps, on campuses, and even in rideshares – individual stories of survivors have become part of the public consciousness. In recent years, a number of documentaries have highlighted how survivors overcome trauma, take control of their own paths to justice, and move forward despite often harrowing circumstances.

In the sections below, we will look at some of the most compelling and inspiring documentaries tackling the issue of sexual violence – including sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse, and workplace sexual misconduct.

Top 10 Documentaries Focusing on Sexual Assault & Abuse

** The following descriptions may contain “spoilers” related to the plot/storyline of each documentary.

Top 10 Sexual Assault Documentaries

#1 Audrie & Daisy: Chronicling two similar cases of rape involving teenage girls who are sexually assaulted while unconscious by classmates they consider their friends, “Audrey & Daisey” looks at the effects of sexual violence on survivors, their families, and the communities where these incidents occur. The rape involving Audrie Pott occurred in Saratoga, California. The rape involving Daisy Coleman occurred in Maryville, Missouri. Pott was 15 when she was assaulted and Coleman was 14. The film also looks at how cyberbullying and social media further traumatized the survivors after they came forward to report the crimes. While the film offers a glimpse into the process of overcoming trauma for survivors, one of the girls featured tragically died by suicide at age 23 after reportedly battling depression for years. Four months later, the woman’s mother also died by suicide.

#2 I Am Evidence: The nationwide issue of untested rape kits was highlighted through individual survivor stories in the 2017 HBO film “I Am Evidence.” Produced by Mariska Hargitay, star of the popular NBC drama “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” the film has helped inspire the #EndTheBacklog movement to test rape kits throughout the nation. As a result, many sex offenders have been brought to justice, and local jurisdictions like Orange County have successfully cleared their sexual assault kit backlogs. Earlier this year, Orange County announced charges in six cold cases related to the rape kit backlog being cleared. In addition, California recently announced a portal enabling survivors to track their sexual assault kits online.

#3 The Keepers: Examining the unsolved 1969 murder of a Baltimore nun, Catherine Cesnik, “The Keepers” brought to light a massive sexual abuse scandal at the all-girls Archbishop Keough High School. Additionally, the film exposed a widespread cover-up by high-ranking Catholic Church officials. Survivors of the school sexual abuse courageously recounted their experiences and testified before Maryland lawmakers in an effort to pass legislation similar to California’s AB 218 law which pauses the statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse claims.

#4 Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God: Director Alex Gibney interviewed numerous survivors of childhood sexual abuse who were harmed by priests while attending a Milwaukee school for the deaf. The film exposes the systemic and odious nature of pedophilia within the Roman Catholic Church and highlights how inaction, cover-ups, and general apathy allowed countless sex crimes to occur for decades.

#5 The Invisible War: An investigative documentary focusing on the epidemic of rape and sexual violence within the U.S. Military, “The Invisible War” has been hailed by both critics and viewers. Released in 2012, five years before the #MeToo Movement garnered worldwide attention, the film was considered to be groundbreaking in terms of tackling difficult subject matter while also placing an onus for addressing sexual violence on some of the nation’s most powerful individuals within the federal government.

#6 The Hunting Ground: Highlighting the pervasive scourge of campus sexual violence, “The Hunting Ground” exposed how major colleges and universities are often complicit in cover-ups and fail to take action in order to maintain their public images. The film also provided a glimpse into the challenges survivors of campus sexual assault often face after coming forward and fighting for justice.

#7 Capturing the Friedmans: One of the first films tackling the issue of childhood sexual abuse to garner worldwide attention, “Capturing the Friedmans” was nominated for an Oscar and received almost universal critical acclaim. Chronicling the story of an upper-middle-class New York family whose father and youngest son are arrested and convicted for shocking sex crimes involving countless children from the close-knit Long Island community, the documentary highlighted how sexual abuse is not only widespread, but it can also impact virtually anyone from any background.

#8 Athlete A: Following a team of investigative journalists from the Indianapolis Star who broke the tragic story of Larry Nassar’s decades of sexual abuse impacting young girls from USA Gymnastics, “Athlete A” has been deemed a “reckoning” for the countless high-ranking officials who turned a blind eye to such unspeakable crimes. The film features first-person accounts from Larry Nassar survivors, including Maggie Nichols, Rachael Denhollander, Simone Biles, and Aly Raisman.

#9 Outcry: Chronicling the story of a high school football star who was wrongfully arrested, convicted, and jailed for sexually abusing a young boy, “Outcry” uncovers a botched police investigation and flawed prosecution which led to a miscarriage of justice. The film follows the accused – Greg Kelley – as he pursues truth and justice, with the validity of his conviction ultimately being overturned and the true perpetrator of the sexual abuse being identified.

#10 We Need to Talk About Cosby: Offering a fascinating and disturbing look into how one of the world’s most beloved entertainers operated as a sexual predator for decades with virtual impunity, “We Need to Talk About Cosby” tackles difficult questions related to the positive role “America’s Dad” played in furthering civil rights and opportunities for minorities in the entertainment industry while simultaneously committing dozens of alleged sexual assaults and rapes.

Additional Sexual Assault Documentaries Worth Mentioning

While they didn’t make our official Top 10 List of Documentaries focusing on Sexual Assault, these films highlight important cases of sexual violence and feature stories of survivors who have overcome incredible odds while fighting for justice.

  • Untouchable: Examining the rise and fall of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, “Untouchable” also highlights sex offender laws and the paths to justice available for survivors of sexual assault.
  • On the Record: Following the stories of over 20 women who accused Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons of sexual assault, “On the Record” specifically highlights the case of Drew Dixon, one of the first Black women to come forward in the wake of the #MeToo Movement. Dixon alleges that Simmons raped her in his apartment, and the film features her distressing first-person account.
  • Anita: Speaking Truth to Power: Profiling Anita Hill, the attorney who challenged Clarence Thomas’ nomination to the Supreme Court with allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, the film exposes the fallout from the 1991 Senate hearings. Since testifying at Thomas’ hearing, Hill has been hailed as a trailblazer for coming forward despite incredible odds.
  • The Most Hated Man on the Internet: Examining the now-defunct pornographic website Anyone Up? and its creator, Hunter Moore, the documentary series features stories from multiple survivors who were victimized in revenge porn and cyberbullying schemes.
  • Lorena: After becoming a household name in 1993 following an altercation with then-husband John Bobbitt which culminated in her cutting off his penis, the documentary series highlights the years of abuse and manipulation endured by Lorena Bobbitt – none of which was addressed in the media following the notorious incident.
  • Sands of Silence: Exposing the underworld of sexual exploitation and human trafficking from Asia to the Americas, “Sands of Silence” highlights what is a global epidemic impacting countless innocent lives every year.
  • I Am Jane Doe: Following a tragic story of multiple American girls who are victimized and enslaved in the child sex trade via a newspaper’s online classified section, “I Am Jane Doe” serves as a cautionary tale for how anyone can be impacted by sexual predators. The film exposes how the sex trafficking ring began and continued unabated as a result of an outdated internet freedom law.
  • Roll Red Roll: Examining a sexual assault case from Steubenville, Ohio, which shook a small community, the film also highlights the role of social media and cyberbullying and how it can impact a survivor’s willingness to come forward and report a crime.

About Dordulian Law Group’s Sexual Assault Attorneys

Dordulian Law Group (DLG) is a top-rated and results-oriented firm representing survivors of sexual assault and abuse in civil court. Founded by Sam Dordulian, a former sex crimes prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County who has been fighting for justice on behalf of survivors for over 25 years, DLG is dedicated to providing a unique and all-encompassing form of legal representation that includes a four-tiered, 24/7 support network known as the SAJE Team (Sexual Assault Justice Experts).

Ready to file a claim and pursue justice through a financial damages award? Our expert attorneys are available online or by phone now.

At DLG, we believe, support, and fight tirelessly for justice on behalf of all sexual assault and abuse survivors. To discuss your sexual assault case confidentially, contact a member of our Sex Crimes Division today at 818-322-4056 for a free consultation.

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