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Gripping docu-series on cyberstalking

It is to the credit of the makers that the documentary not only evokes dread (especially with a chilling voice distortion effect for the stalker’s messages) but also provokes both empathy and anger towards the victims as well as the perpetrator.
Last Updated 02 March 2024, 00:29 IST
Can I Tell You A Secret (Documentary)
2024
4/5
Director:Natasha Gauntand, Liza Williams

Let’s say this upfront: This is a terrifying watch for women everywhere. It reveals, with minimum fuss and maximum impact, how easily this could happen to you.

Can I Tell You A Secret, a two-part true-crime documentary on Netflix, is the story of a UK cyberstalker Matthew Hardy who slyly and pitilessly terrorised multiple women over many years. Incidentally, The Guardian ran an in-depth investigation of this case. In 2022, Hardy was sent to prison for nine years — the longest-ever sentence handed down in the UK for cyberstalking.

The documentary focuses on three of his victims, all young and striking women with a strong social media presence. Initially, they start receiving mildly offensive private messages, purportedly from a woman. The messages progressively get more threatening and then begin the impersonations, faking of accounts and identities, and sending of sexual content to the victims’ family and friends — jeopardising their offline bonds and relationships greatly, not to mention their professions. Utterly unnerving how easy it all really is!

It is to the credit of the makers that the documentary not only evokes dread (especially with a chilling voice distortion effect for the stalker’s messages) but also provokes both empathy and anger towards the victims as well as the perpetrator. What is heartening and yet worrying in this engrossing series is its relentless focus on the contempt the society (including the police) has for women’s troubles, experiences and vulnerabilities and the consequent perfunctory dismissal of such concerns. When they seek help, women, especially if young, successful and good-looking as these victims were, are often brushed off as “overreactive” “overly sensitive” and “nervy”. Till the next rape or murder occurs, and it is too late, as always.

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(Published 02 March 2024, 00:29 IST)

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