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By Erin Briana O'Brien

Why Jessica Jones might be upsetting yet essential for abuse survivors

Let me start by saying, "Jessica Jones" on Netflix is a great show. The acting is impeccable, the diversity is refreshing, and to see a woman who is so flawed yet powerful depicted in a nuanced way is revelatory. However, it needs to be said – for those who have survived rape and abuse, both men and women, this show can bring on fits of anxiety and despair.

Saying that is not not to fault the creators, or anyone who made the comics or show up to this point. They needed to make this story terrifying, because it is a terrifying one which many people live through. In fact, seeing that a super-powered person can still be abused is, in a tragic way, inspiring. Nevertheless, the character of the Purple Man is so frightening, and so reminiscent of the painful moments suffered, that it makes sense to at least acknowledge his menace.


The Purple Man was always written as a frightening villain, but less powerful than others in the Marvel Universe. His main evil deed was controlling Jessica's (then called Jewel) mind to make her hurt others with her supernatural powers. He also made her watch as he hurt other women in front of her. The show decides to take this a step further, by not only confirming what he does to others so graphically in front of Jessica, but we get the confirmation that he used his mind control powers to rape her as well. This was not done in the comics, and is a very powerful step forward for rape victims; to see themselves represented by a superhero. However, it is nonetheless terrifying.

What is also terrifying is seeing Kilgrave (The Purple Man's real name) being able to influence every aspect of Jessica's life. Even when she is not being mind-warped by him, he still has access to those around her: to her friends, to the police, to her boyfriend. She has super strength and is powerless against him. She watches as a young woman murders her parents, then eventually kills herself, all because of him. These scenes and scenarios are powerful reminders to those who have survived rape and abuse that even when your abuser is "gone" like Kilgrave is supposedly out of Jessica's head, they truly never leave.

Yet all is not lost, and that is the true triumph of "Jessica Jones" as a show. She eventually defeats Kilgrave with her own mind, and her own willpower. He thinks he can still control her, and she lets him, until the right moment. She is also not alone. Her best friend Trish Walker, known as "Patsy" from her former child star fame, stands up with her. They fight against him together. In fact, despite her angst and alcoholism, Jessica Jones is never truly alone. She finds a lover and a partner in Luke Cage, a friend in Malcolm even after he betrayed her, and her sister in Patsy. She learns to trust these people despite their flaws and how Kilgrave influenced them. She learns to grow. So despite the fact that this Netflix show, which is incredibly well done, is also petrifying, it is a recommendation on my list for anyone who has survived horrible abuse.

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