Document Type



in Studies in Law, Politics and Society: A Special Symposium Issue on Law and Film, Vol. 46, pp. 61-91 (2009)(Austin Sarat, ed.)


In the 1988 film The Accused, a young woman named Sarah Tobias is gang raped on a pinball machine by three men while a crowded bar watches. The rapists cut a deal with the prosecutor. Sarah's outrage at the deal convinces the assistant district attorney to prosecute members of the crowd that cheered on and encouraged the rape. This film shows how Sarah Tobias, a woman with little means and less experience, intuits that according to the law rape victims are incredible witnesses to their own victimization. The film goes on to critique what the "right" kind of witness would be. This article explains how the film The Accused is therefore about the relationship between witnessing and testimony, between seeing and the representation of that which was seen. The article elaborates the relationship between the power and responsibility of being a witness in law -- one who sees and credibly attests to the truth of her vision -- as well as it unpacks the significance of bearing witness to film -- what can we know from watching movies.

Date of Authorship for this Version

January 2009


law and film, law and humanities, evidence, rape, criminal law, law and literature, evidence, jurisprudence, witness, testimony