For centuries of rhetoric, rape has been categorized with pillaging and plundering, the traditional parallelism apparently established among the three because they share aspects of forceful seizure. To pillage or plunder, of course, is generally understood as an appropriation of material wealth or objects, which perhaps explains why even now, rape is most often discussed and understood as a sex crime—as the worst, most degrading form of robbery—but is not sufficiently treated as a crime of real violence. The essence of rape, just as with murder, is in violence and abuse of power. As such, culpability must belong not exclusively to the person committing the sexual assault but also to any accomplices or willful abettors who contribute to the victim's suffering.
The Accused is a smart film which understands rape to be the violent and multivalent. Sarah Tobias is the small-town, reckless waitress who one night in a local bar is raped by three men in succession while a crowd of boozed-up spectators cheer and goad her assaulters. Sarah arrived at The Mill in retreat from an argument with her boyfriend and believed herself only to be flirting and forgetting life long enough to see out the evening and return home to bed. The night, of course, turned out indescribably worse, and it is her right to describe how much worse, and in what way worse, and why, that motivates her character's behavior throughout the picture.
Sarah's speeches constantly return to concepts of fairness. It is not, for example, fair that her "character," her fondness for alcohol, or a long-past drug-possession bust will be used against in the unrelated matter of trying the rapists. It is not fair that her lawyer, assistant district attorney Katheryn Murphy, agrees to plea-bargain the Rape One charge down to Reckless Endangerment—also a felony, but with an easier shot at parole—so the three guilty parties can go to prison without giving Sarah the chance to confront or expose them in public.