Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Presented as part of the Lifetime cable network's ongoing "Stop Violence Against Women" program, the made-for-TV Scared Silent was based on a true story. Penelope Ann Miller stars as Kathy Clifson, happily married to the police chief (Reed Diamond) of Fremont, MN. Kathy's tranquil lifestyle is shattered when her husband hires a new deputy, John McCrane (Andrew Jackson). It seems that when Kathy was a 17-year-old high schooler, she was raped by McCrane, who terrorized and browbeat her into silence. As the weeks go by, Kathy comes in contact with three other women (including her best friend) who have been sexually assaulted by McCrane. Each of the women has either been unable or unwilling to bring him up on charges due to lack of substantial evidence -- not to mention the egregious wagon-circling tactics of McCrane's fellow "good old boy" law officers. Determined that McCrane will pay for his crimes, and to symbolically stand up behalf of all violated women everywhere who have been too scared or guilt-ridden to take action against their attackers, Kathy convinces the other victims to form a strong -- and unfrightened -- united front. The incident upon which this film was based resulted in "The Debbie Smith Act," a proposed bipartisan anti-sexual abuse law that was still in litigation at the time of filming. Following the original telecast of Scared Silent on May 20, 2002, the phone exchanges of the National Sexual Assault Hotline were literally swamped with calls of support for the Debbie Smith Act, and with reports of similar outrages against women.