As my final post on this topic (for now anyway), I’d like to look back a bit on the portrayal of survivors’ reactions to sexual assault. The overall grade? Not good.
Veronica’s own reaction is the only one that approximates complexity, which is fitting, given that she is, in fact, a complex, three-dimensional character. She’s clearly traumatized, struggling to trust people, and plagued by a sense of betrayal, while at the same time attempting to maintain her tough, capable exterior. Kristen Bell’s acting choices, both subtle and overt, were phenomenal in this regard, as the vulnerability that was there not just despite her edginess, but was rather its origin, was always visible just beneath the surface. That said, I must note that it is extremely unlikely that she would immediately forgive””not to mention start dating””Duncan on finding out he slept with her while she was drugged, primarily because he was also under the influence of GHB. Regardless of her position on his guilt or innocence, I can’t imagine not feeling a big ick factor there.
Next, we have “Beaver” Casablancas, who is revealed at the end of Season 2 as a) a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and b) a mass murderer. Do some survivors, particularly male ones, react by continuing the cycle of violence and abuse in order to regain some sense of power and deal with the anger? Absolutely. Is it likely that said violence will take the form of staging a bus crash that kills several innocent students? Not so much. Is this a complete oversimplification of the statistics relating to the perpetration of violence by survivors? Big fat yes.
And finally it’s unclear how much overlap there is between the serial rapist’s victims and the “Lilith House” women, but the message from Season 3 seems to be that all the non-Parker survivors (ie. those who don’t have to have a personality and can be reduced to caricature) react identically. They’re all marching at “Take Back the Night”. They’re all publicly outraged. They’re all protesting the frat house. None of them wants to be left alone, to curl up in her bed for a week or a month and cry, to engage the complex questions of self-blame/minimization that she may be experiencing. This is where the headshaving had unexplored potential: it automatically makes the experience more public, and limits attempts at privacy, another disempowering move. Because it was unexplored, however, all we have is Veronica (and to some extent Parker) who display any complexity or variety in response to an act that has a unique affect on anyone who survives it.