TRIGGER WARNING: This article talks about sexual assault and rape and may be triggering for some readers
The new and controversial Netflix series, Grand Army, tells the stories of five high schoolers each going through various struggles of finding their identity and worth in the world. This is in no way an endorsement for the show, as there's an uprise of backlash against the show's writer prior to the release. However, looking past the backlash and controversy, the show still does an astounding job covering what it's like being a student of color having to balance home life and being a successful student, trying to fit in somewhere, intersectionality, coming to terms with sexuality, truths behind the "hustle," and rape.
I seldom cry over TV shows. Sure, I've cried over When They See Us and The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez. Yet, for some reason, Grand Army made me feel things I haven't felt with the two other shows. I later realized I could only sympathize for the situations of the Harlem Five and Gabriel Fernandez. I'm not a black man, I didn't serve time for a crime I didn't commit, and I'm not a victim of domestic abuse. However, I could empathize with Joey Del Marco in Grand Army, one of the main characters in the show, because I am a young girl, and a victim of sexual assault. Odessa A'zion's portrayal of a rape survivor was truly breathtaking and almost real. Everything from denial, the loss of confidence, the rise in anxiety, the change in outfit, and the unhealthy coping methods. Of course, how a person reacts to being raped varies, yet, somehow, A'zion's performance felt more real than anything I've ever felt when watching a show or movie.
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS
Joey Del Marco is an empowered and outspoken high school Junior whose storyline in the show highlights the mentally damaging effects of being taken advantage of and raped by her best friends. She not only deals with the inevitable post-traumatic stress, but she loses her closest friends, loses her confidence, and falls into unhealthy coping methods (drugs). Plus, she receives extreme backlash from everyone around her when she tried to get justice. Her situation just seems to get worse as the series progresses and more heart-wrenching for the viewers.
Her plot line depicts the sad reality of rape culture in today's society. If rape victims were to even come forward, it's more likely that the perpetrators will walk free only a few days later. About 97% of rapists will walk free conviction, mostly due to lack of convincing evidence. That's exactly what happened to Joey; the rape kit came up inconclusive and all the evidence points to just aggressive sex. She had the courage to come forward about her rape, something many victims couldn't muster, and it doesn't help her in any way. All the videos of her and her friends made her out to be the perpetrator of the activities. Sadly, the evidence of the rape kit wasn't concrete enough and the suspects' stories were superior to the survivor's own telling of the events. I'll say it again: the suspects' words were superior to the survivor's own telling of the events. I hope that you can see the issue.
Even if the evidence isn't from the rape kit or from the perspective of the aggressors, the evidence is there, in plain sight, from her change in behavior. She became insomniac; resorted to drugs; cried herself to sleep; and distracted from everything around her. Not only that, but even in the way she presented herself after everything: she strictly wore hoodies and sweatpants; refrained from doing any of the scandalous dance moves; and became more reserved in everything, contrasting her typical behavior as this eccentric, put-together, and confident young woman. That alone should imply something happened to her, enough to break her confidence. But, no; the emotional effects of a woman's rape experience are not enough for the justice system to serve her properly.
Rape culture is a serious issue in the world today, regardless of where you are. Notice, I used both "victims" and "survivors" in this article because there are people that are sensitive to either terms, and it's important to be considering of that to whoever is reading. Sadly, this show not only emphasizes Joey's post-trauma, but it serves as a reason why so many victims are fearful of coming forward about what happened to them, especially if it was from someone they know well. People of today need proper education of not just rape culture, but also the very harmful aftermath of rape so that victims no longer need to stay silent when they've been truly wronged. As much as I disagree with the happenings of the behind the scenes of this show, it still does a wonderful job of portraying rape culture from a survivor's perspective and doesn't shine any positive light on the suspects at all. We can see how it affects a person and A'zion's character will have these effects prolonging for the rest of her life, unfortunately. So, believe victims, hold suspects accountable, educate yourselves, look out for any changes in behavior. And most importantly, don't rape.