A common response to a woman coming forward about sexual assault is no response at all. Beyond the failings of law enforcement and the court system to provide justice, it is, perhaps most painfully, family and friends that let victims down. “This Happened” is one woman’s exploration of this phenomenon. To find out why her friends and family dismissed the news that she had been sexually assaulted by someone they knew, she asks them, and records what they have to say.
In this limited five part series, you’ll hear those conversations. You’ll learn why her friends did what they did. Their answers are personal and painful, but they paint a broader picture of how rape culture works, how pervasive it is, and the damage it can do.
After talking it out for hours, Nichole and Anthony come to terms with the assault for the first time. Accountability becomes the question that everyone must wrestle with: Was there any in this case? Should there be? If so, what should it look like? What is its importance? And Janey explores the bigger picture – why all this matters.
Once the news of the assault is made public, Janey’s friends and family describe feeling a surge of pity for Mathew, the perpetrator, and an instinct to protect him. Janey’s mother argues that it is the woman’s responsibility to avoid rape. And we learn that victim blaming doesn’t always sound the way we expect it to.
Janey’s friends describe the things that made a friendship with Mathew special, offering another explanation for why they maintained relationships with him. But we discover that there was also an overwhelming sense that the correct thing to do, was just not to talk about it. And we see the way this avoidance of awkwardness and drama worked to cover up the assault.
Janey’s friends have a difficult time acknowledging that the assault happened. And they reveal the many coping mechanisms that allow them to distance themselves from it. Janey’s friend, Nichole, has an epiphany.
Janey takes us through the story of a beautiful friendship that took an unhealthy turn, and ended in tragedy. In this episode, we learn exactly what happened the night of the assault, and we come to understand that it was the aftermath of the assault that would take the biggest toll.