ESPN Films latest documentary short “Betsy & Irv” debuts today on ESPN+. The documentary, directed by Nicole Noren, tells the story of Betsy Sailor, a Penn State alum who was sexually assaulted during her time at the school, and Irv Pankey, the unexpected hero who helped as she confronted a predator, an institution, and a justice system. The short is available now on ESPN+. Trailer: https://es.pn/3JZSnn9
Using extensive archival video and photography, the film opens in the fall of 1978, as the Penn State football team seeks its first-ever number one national ranking. Senior Betsy Sailor is raped the week after school begins by a member of the football team. As the undefeated season rolls on, so does Betsy’s resolve and quest for justice. In a tense courtroom moment, she recounts intimate details of her assault with her rapist and many of his teammates in attendance. Irv Pankey, a star and future NFL player on that team, decides to break ranks and take a bold step that alters Betsy’s life. “Betsy & Irv” offers a first-hand account of courage, survival, and the power of being believed, and of the enduring difference it makes to speak up, for yourself, and for another.
Noren, who is a Peabody and Murrow award-winning investigative producer for ESPN, is making her directorial debut for ESPN Films and said: “I’ve directed and produced numerous documentaries about sexual violence for ESPN, both before and after the #MeToo movement. Most of these stories followed a similar pattern – women who accuse college athletes of rape are typically on their own, battling powerful institutions, victim-blaming attitudes, and are usually treated as pariahs. This story is the exact opposite of this pattern we’ve seen play out time and time again. This is what CAN happen when survivors are believed and treated with support, inclusiveness, and kindness.”
Betsy & Irv’s story is part of a larger, never-before-told story of the most dangerous player in college football history, available now at espn.com and in the ESPN app. “Untold” is an immersive piece of journalism about that player and the program and justice system that struggled to contain him, and about the incredible strength of the women who survived his assaults on them. The piece was written and reported by acclaimed longform writer Tom Junod and distinguished investigative reporter Paula Lavigne.
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