The Netflix TV series Unbelievable is based on a true story. And although many of the names have been changed, the details are very real. In fact, the rape victim who is accused of making up her story, Marie Adler (played by Kaitlyn Dever), is based on a woman in real life who is only known as Marie. This post has spoilers for how the Netflix series ends.
Most of the Details about Marie’s Story Are True
In real life, Marie’s name is kept a secret and we never see photos of her. But what is portrayed as happening to her in Unbelievable is, tragically, very accurate. According to a ProPublica article upon which the series is based, Marie is actually her middle name. Local news reports at the time, including one by the Seattle Times, referred to her simply as D.M. Her full name has never been revealed, and it’s not even known if Marie really is her middle name.
Marie’s rape happened in 2008, two years before the rapes that were investigated and ultimately led to proving her story true. This is actually shown to be the case in the Netflix series too, but some viewers said it was more subtle and they didn’t pick up on that timeline at first. Marie is shown using an older phone, for example, and that’s one clue that what happened to her actually took place earlier than the other events.
It’s not known if Marie really did try to commit suicide, like the series indicates. The ProPublica story doesn’t reveal this, although reports indicated that she took antidepressants. She also has said that she was on Zoloft since the age of 8.
Marie was in foster care and had turned 18 just a few months before her rape. And yes, Peggy Cunningham did indeed call the police because she didn’t believe Marie’s story. Marie had lived with Peggy, who worked as a children’s advocate at a homeless shelter, but when she turned 18 she moved into a facility operated by a program that helped young adults in foster care transition to living on their own.
In real life, just as in the series, the rapist’s computer had photos of Marie on them, and that’s how the detectives were able to tie his case to hers and prove that her story really had happened. ProPublica also posits that she recanted because she felt bullied into doing so, when minor inconsistencies were elevated and she was essentially threatened with losing her housing assistance if she didn’t recant.
She Made Two Settlements & Is Now a Long-Haul Truck Driver
Marie’s $500 fine for making a false report was later refunded to her, and in 2013 she received a $150,000 settlement for how she was treated by the Lynnwood Police Department, the Seattle Times reported. Some think that settlement should have been much higher.
She also reached a settlement with an at-risk-youth program called Cocoon House, which oversaw where she was living at the time of the assault. This particular settlement isn’t shown in the series. She was threatened with eviction unless she received counseling and told others in the program that she lied about her rape. That settlement is confidential, the Seattle Times noted.
According to ProPublica, Marie now has a commercial driver’s license and works as a long-haul truck driver. She’s married and she and her husband have two children. But she doesn’t want any more details than that, including where she’s living now, released to the public.
According to Hollywood Reporter, Marie has seen the trailer for the Unbelievable series. She said it was both “phenomenal” and “hard to watch,” but she planned to watch the whole series eventually.