You Can’t Take My Daughter (2020 Lifetime)
Cast: Lyndsy Fonseca, Kirstie Alley, Jason Burkey, Hunter Burke
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Synopsis (via Lifetime)
Amy Thompson (Lyndsy Fonseca) is a vibrant law student in Charlotte who is attacked and raped by Demetri (Hunter Burke), a friend of a friend she met once
Part of the Ripped from the Headlines series. True events inspired this particular movie.
The movie starts with two women, Amy and her friend Letty, running in a park. Amy recently graduated from law school and celebrates with tequila shots with her law school friends. One of the male law school students brings their CrossFit trainer with them, Demitri, asks Amy out, and she declines the offer flat out.
Later that night, as she is raiding her fridge, Amy hears a knock at the door. She thinks it is her neighbor Chickie and opens the door. Amy is attacked by Demitri, who asks her, “why did you have to say no?” Implying she brought it on herself, which is disgusting and terrible, Amy screams, and the camera fades to black.
We are thankfully spared seeing the rape itself but come back o the scene afterward. Amy is shivering on the floor and calls 911. The police interview her and ask simple questions. She is beaten pretty badly and cries, recalling the details. Amy remembers that when he was attacking her, he was smiling. Since Amy knows who attacked her, they do not do a rape kit on her and tell her to get a home security system. (Is that real protocol?)
Letty comes and takes Amy to the hospital. They are unable to administer the rape kit because the equipment is down for repairs. The ER nurse directs them to a hospital that is three hours away, but Amy declines the rape kit all together because she wants to go home and rest. Her body is badly bruised all over.
Kristie Alley arrives and is playing Amy’s pageant queen mother. She is talking in a thick southern accent and is concerned for her daughter but slightly accusatory. (She asks Amy what she was wearing.) Kristie Alley is all about appearances and saving face. She wonders if Amy should even go through with pressing charges because of how it would look if word got around.
Amy doesn’t back down and meets with the lawyers. The lawyer says that to even file, the charges would take six months due to a backlog in rape cases, and if convicted, her attacker would serve at most 11 years. Later in a parking lot, Amy is attacked by Demitri again, he tells her to drop the charges. She files a restraining order against him.
With the stress of everything, Amy realizes that she missed her period and is pregnant. Amy tells Letty, who is sympathetic and hopeful for a miscarriage. Amy decides to keep the baby, even though she has a new job, and the baby is from the rape. Amy views the baby as a symbol of hope and empowerment. Kristie Alley is less supportive then Letty. She doesn’t want Amy to throw away her life on a child born from rape. Kristie Alley tells Amy that she will destroy her reputation and wants nothing to do with the baby. Amy throws her out of her house. Bye, Kristie Alley!
Demitri finds out about the baby from his lawyer. He stalks Amy. Since the restraining order trial hasn’t taken place, he isn’t afraid of the law. He denies all charges when questioned again and insists that he is a “nice guy.” The problem here is that he ISN’T A NICE GUY. Demitri breaks into Amy’s house and tosses the very pregnant Amy around while waving a gun in her face. He demands she drop the charges. Amy throws herself from a first-story window while six months pregnant, and the neighbor Chickie gets out her rifle to scare him off. When the police arrive, they are still no help. Neither is Amy’s Lawyer.
Amy is now on bed rest, Kristie Alley visits to try to change her mind about keeping the baby. Amy is determined to become a mother. She goes into labor later, while grocery shopping. Amy has a daughter named Maddie.
The court case on the stalking doesn’t go Amy’s way. Demitri gets a slap on the wrist with probation. Amy relocates from North Carolina to Atlanta during a hurricane to get away from her attacker.
Years later, Maddie is now a little girl with a lemonade stand. Amy and her daughter are a team. Amy is understandably a little overprotective. She joins Maddie’s school security counsel and takes every precaution to ensure her daughter’s safety. Letty visits and decides to move to Atlanta to work at a dance studio. She moves in with Amy and Maddie.
Amy is served summons papers. Her attacker is filing for custody of Maddie. He hasn’t been charged with the attack, so he is innocent in the eyes of the court. He is also asking for once a month visit and for Maddie to take his last name. Amy decides to represent herself in court.
In court, Amy makes a case for herself. She argues that Demitri raped and stalked her. The judge tells her that this is family court, not a criminal court. The law is not on her side, and the judge tells her to find proper representation. He orders a paternity test. A lawyer watches the trial and offers his help pro bono.
Kristie Alley is deposed in the case and testifies on behalf of her daughter. Amy shows her pictures of her granddaughter. Kristie Alley offers to put the kid in some modeling classes and an envelope of money. Amy declines and tells her mother that she is ignorant and selfish. Amy is not taking her bullshit anymore.
Maddie is in Karate class, and Amy decides to enroll herself in self-defense classes. The sensei helps Amy get her mojo back and gives her some legal advice. (Something no lawyers can do.) Maddie and Amy have a frank conversation about Maddie’s father and what happened. It is some of the best writing I’ve seen in a Lifetime movie. Very well done.
Demitri is in town and has been loitering around school. The principle of the school interrogates him and asks for more security on campus. They monitor the situation and record him on camera.
In court again, the new lawyer brings evidence to the judge. The evidence shows previous charges of assault against Dimitri when he was a police officer and the footage of him outside of the school. The judge is starting to side with Amy.
It may be too late because Demitri is following Amy and Maddie everywhere. Including a school recital. He grabs Amy outside of the school and threatens her. He wants to start over, and Amy tells him no. He grabs her, and Amy pulls out her self-defense skills, she also records the whole conversation.
Back in court, Demitri fails to show up for the third or fourth time. Amy speaks on her behalf and stands up for herself and her daughter. Amy plays the recording of Demitri threatening her for the judge. The judge rules in favor of Amy, and the custody is closed forever. The rape case is still open in North Carolina. Currently, only 18 states allow women to block the parental rights of their rapists.
Minority Report: Letty, Chickie, Police Officer, Judge, Baillif, Deputy Marshal, Karate instructors, security guard, a parent in karate class.
Props to the female writer (Karen Leigh Hopkins) and director. (Tori Garrett) This movie was excellent.
More information about the Rape Survivor Child Custody Act.
Call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area or visit RAINN’s Website.
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