The Most Uncomfortable Part Of The Sweet/Vicious Pilot Isn't The Violence

Photo: MTV
MTV's new series Sweet/Vicious is one of the network's more brutal offerings. The pilot's opening scene shows a campus rapist receiving a knife in his thigh from a masked vigilante with little sympathy for the person she left bleeding on the floor. That vigilante is later revealed to be the exceedingly well-mannered sorority sister Jules. Beneath her sweaters and good girl persona, Jules has a very special set of skills and a thirst for revenge — a quest that, in the pilot episode, leads to murder. Violence and vengeance are a major part of Sweet/Vicious, but it's not the often-shocking acts of physical violence that are the most disturbing aspect of MTV's new series. The most uncomfortable part of Sweet/Vicious is watching Jules interacting with her own rapist.

Jules' desire to terrorize the alarming number of rapists at her university comes from a very personal, and particularly heartbreaking place. The pilot introduces us to Jules' best friend and sorority sister Kennedy, the kind of friend many people would hope to make in college. Kennedy always has Jules' back: she covers for her when she skips house meetings and goes all-out on a study session when she falls behind in her classes. Yet Jules is keeping a huge secret from Kennedy, and it's not just the fact that she's been moonlighting as a masked crusader. Kennedy's boyfriend Nate raped Jules, and presumably used Jules' desire to maintain her friendship with Kennedy to keep her quiet. And, because of Jules' silence, Nate is around a lot, reminding Jules of the trauma she suffered every single day.

Jules' rape — which we see during flashbacks — is only a part of what drives her to exact revenge on college rapists. The problem, as Jules explains, is that people like Nate get away with their crimes and get to go to school alongside their victims.

Real-world stats back up Jules' belief. A 2014 report from the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault states that one in five college women will be sexually assaulted during their time at school. According to a survey from the Bureau of Justice, only 7% of campus rapes were reported to a school official, and 4% were reported to the police. Reporting to the police does not guarantee a conviction: According to the National Violence Against Women Survey from End Violence Against Women International, only 5% of rapists will ever spend a day in prison.
If removing a rapist from campus is not an option, it unfairly falls upon rape survivors to deal with their presence — and it's the most gut-wrenching aspect of Sweet/Vicious yet. In addition to watching Jules feel obligated to make small talk with the person we know raped her, Sweet/Vicious implies that another survivor dropped out of school after her own rapist failed to be punished by the university. Yes, the violence on Sweet/Vicious is disturbing — but it's watching women forced to live and interact with monsters on a daily basis that is the most chilling.
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If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
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