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Shocking true story behind Louis Theroux's 'unsettling documentary' that's blowing people's minds

Shocking true story behind Louis Theroux's 'unsettling documentary' that's blowing people's minds

The Netflix documentary examines the topics of disability rights, race and the nature of consent in relationships

Louis Theroux's latest true crime offering has left viewers feeling seriously unsettled, with many wanting to know more about the harrowing story behind the Netflix documentary.

Theroux is best known for his unflinching docuseries When Louis Met... and more recently his interviews with stars such as Stormzy, Bear Grylls and Dame Judi Dench.

However one of his latest projects - of which he is the executive producer - examines the topic of disability rights, consent and race through a heartbreaking true story.

Currently available to stream on Netflix, Tell Them You Love Me follows the story of 30-year-old Derrick Johnson, a non-verbal man living with cerebral palsy who needs around-the-clock care, and Anna Stubblefield - a professor and activist.

Anna Stubblefield enters the picture

The family begin to receive support from Anna Stubblefield, a respected academic and a disability rights advocate, who believed she would be able to help him communicate.

Anna and Derrick begin working together in 2009 and it initially appears like Derrick is beginning to improve with his cognitive skills, using a controversial technique called facilitated communication.

Through Anna's help Derrick soon begins communicating with his family through a keyboard and even begins studying at a local university class.

The relationship takes a turn

Unfortunately things are not as they appear after Anna - who was married at the time - begins a sexual relationship with Derrick.

Anna claims the pair's interactions are consensual, however Derrick's mother Daisy Johnson argues that her son doesn't have the capacity to give consent for a sexual relationship.

His family also argued that the messages Derrick was typing were actually Anna's words.

Anna working with Derrick. (Netflix)
Anna working with Derrick. (Netflix)

Anna goes to trial

Following Anna's revelation that she and Derrick had embarked on a sexual relationship, his mother reported the professor to the authorities - where she would later face trial for her actions.

Anna would eventually be convicted of sexual assault in 2015 after prosecutors were able to argue that it was not possible for Derrick to give consent in their relationship.

She was sentenced to two 12-year prison terms to serve consecutively, though these would later be overturned after Anna made a successful appeal in 2017.

Anna was released after serving two years and has since maintained that she was innocent.

Anna has maintained that she was innocent. (Netflix)
Anna has maintained that she was innocent. (Netflix)

The documentary ends with the film crews paying a visit to Derrick, who still lives with his mother Daisy in New Jersey.

Speaking about the documentary with Netflix's Tudum, Theroux explained that he was inspired to explore the story after reading a news article on the case over 10 years ago. "It sat on the fault lines of so many big social questions — around race, sexuality, and, yes, disability," he said.

Speaking about the importance of telling Derrick's story, he added: "Disabled people who are nonverbal or who struggle to speak [are] by definition more vulnerable to misinterpretation, which raises the stakes and makes it all potentially catastrophic."

Tell Them You Love Me is available to stream on Netflix now.

Featured Image Credit: Mike Marsland/WireImage/Getty Images/Netflix

Topics: Netflix, TV, Louis Theroux