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‘I May Destroy You’ and the Power of Vocalizing Trauma

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Michaela Coel‘s masterpiece I May Destroy You is one of the most talked-about and well-reviewed TV series of the year, for good reason. Her complete control over the production, from the writing to the acting, has enabled her to deliver a visceral fictionalized version of her own trauma regarding a sexual assault.

One unique aspect of I May Destroy You is that it shows the effect that talking about your trauma has on you and those around you. Having this played out on screen means more than you may realize, especially if you haven’t experienced sexual assault yourself. The series incorporates this part of healing into the narrative in a way that is beyond rewarding to watch.

Coel stars as Arabella, a Twitter personality turned author. As she’s struggling to finish the latest manuscript for her latest book, she’s also dealing with the effects of being date raped while out one night with friends. She works on piecing together a picture of her rapist while keeping her assault from derailing her life. Her friends support her tremendously, even as they work through their own trauma.

After a sexual assault, admitting to yourself that it happened can be the hardest obstacle when trying to heal. Sometimes it takes seeing other people talk about their rape to make you feel brave enough to speak about your own experience for the first time. Once Arabella has made a police report, she works with social workers assigned to find her rapist. Her best friends, Kwame and Terry (Paapa Essiedu and Weruche Opia), sit in the room with her as she’s updated on her case. They witness her working through her experience.

Unbeknownst to Arabella, Kwame was also raped while meeting a Grindr hookup the night before. But he hasn’t shared what happened to him. It’s clear that he is thinking about his own assault, though, as he watches the social workers talk Arabella through her memories. Fortunately, these professionals are everything they need to be for survivors of sexual assault: understanding, patient, and supportive. They never judge Arabella for the situation she was in at the time of her rape, and they certainly don’t blame it on her. Historically, police have not been so accepting and supportive.


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