Illustration by Samantha Corbett
CW: mentions sexual assault and gang rape in TV (no graphic description)
A couple of weeks ago I decided to start watching Netflix’s popular series,
Narcos. It’s a “raw, gritty, original” crime drama that explores the lives of
drug kingpins in 1980s Colombia. I’ve been taking Spanish language
courses this year and figured I could learn more of the language and
culture by watching a series based in South America.
There were some really great things about the show; it was riveting, had
good acting, and held political intrigue. I binged the first three episodes
and found that in the series there were very few women, each of whom
had very little screen time, and were either kidnapped, wives or sex
workers. Within the first few episodes of the series, one of these
characters was horrifically gang raped.
The rape scene was brutal, it was incredibly violent, and it took an
incredibly long time. The whole point of it was to heighten the drama of
the scene, as each time the heroes would find out more about her location
it would cut back to a different man using her. It would oscillate from
concerned heroes to “That little girl doesn’t move… like a dead cow”,
heroes decide to find her to “What, did you kill her? It’s my turn now”, car
chase to “Let me have a little more fun”, to heroes storming the building
with guns blazing and finding her, and the scene finally ends. This
terrifyingly traumatic experience, which will impact her for the rest of her
life, was reduced to a tension building device.
In the aftermath of the scene, the hero asks, “Is she going to be ok?” to
which the cop replies “Physically, yeah. Mentally? I haven’t got a fucking
clue.” They change the subject, the drug war continues, and she instantly
fades into redundancy now that they have no use for her bruised body to
further the importance of their cause. You never see her character again.
I’m curled up on my couch, tea forgotten on the coffee table, with blanket
wrapped around me in a warmth that is cloying because I can feel my cold
sweat stick to its fur. The episode has ended but my heart is still racing. I
choose something else to watch; something light, something to take my
mind off the trauma I just watched for entertainment. I have a shower, go
to bed, and try to sleep, but my mind keeps going back to her. I don’t even
remember her name.
I think of her and I think of me, and I think of myself in that situation and
suddenly my heart rate climbs. I have a pressure on my chest and I’m so,
so tired of being constantly reminded of the pain that men can inflict upon
me. While her experience was a shocking scene in a television show, rape
is an experience of so many women who have to live it afterwards. We don’t just stop existing after we’ve been brutalized. We endure and we deal with its consequences in whatever way we can. Why do we never see that in the media? I have so many images in my mind of scenes from films and TV series of women being raped, but no stories of how these women survive it. What do they do afterwards? What do I do afterwards?
You’ve told me how horrible rape is, you’ve shown me how it could happen
to me and who by, but what you’re really helping me understand is that it
doesn’t matter – that the experience of women after they’ve been raped
I haven’t watched Narcos since. I don’t want to. I don’t want to think about
Her name was Helena and I think of her and I think of me.