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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Directed by Jonathan Kaplan
Paramount Home Entertainment 10/88 DVD/VHS Feature Film
"Rape," according to Elaine Hilberman in The Journal of Psychiatry, is "an act of violence and humiliation in which the victim experiences overwhelming fear for her very existence, as well as a profound sense of powerlessness which few other events in life can parallel. Short of homicide, rape is the ultimate violation of the self."
This description certainly applies to the crime committed in this drama. Sarah Tobias, a waitress, is gang-raped by three men on the glass top of a pin-ball machine in the back room of a bar. While she is being assaulted, other men in the bar cheer the rapists. Sarah goes to the authorities, but Kathryn Murphy, the assistant district attorney, cannot find any witnesses to corroborate Sarah's account of what happened. Lacking evidence to push the rape charge, Kathryn agrees to a plea bargain. Three men go to jail but on a charge of reckless endangerment rather than rape. Sarah regards this agreement as a betrayal. Seeing the depth of her client's anger and humiliation at not being able to tell her story in court, Kathryn comes up with another strategy. She decides to prosecute three men who were in the bar at the time for criminal solicitation, i.e. for encouraging the rape by clapping and shouting.
Tom Torpor's screenplay for The Accused sheds light on the crime still shrouded in myth and misunderstanding. Jodie Foster is excellent as the victim who insists on her day in court, even though her appearance and background might work against her. And although Kelly McGillis lacks fire as the crusading assistant district attorney, this drama still speaks volumes about the demands of justice, the complicated issues if sexaul assault prosecution and the oft-committed crime of blaming the victim instead of insuring her rights.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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