Netflix has mastered the art of making true crime documentaries. From films like The Tinder Swindler to shows like Inventing Anna and the Catching Killers shows, the latest addition to the wagon is the harrowing real-life documentary titled Our Father.
Withstanding the 90-minute horror can get quite difficult as the nauseating events begin to unfold. It revolves around a woman, Jacoba Ballard stumbling upon a grim discovery where she learns that her mother was impregnated by her fertility doctor without any knowledge or consent; a similar thing happened to various other women and Jacoba has nearly 94 half-siblings and counting. However, the most disturbing moment in the series lies in the fact that the doctor’s grisly activities were not considered illegal back in the day.
The doctor in question is the notorious Indianapolis fertility expert Donald Cline who was a pretty well-respected member of the church and the community. For decades, Cline has destroyed samples from husbands and other donors, using his own sperm instead, to impregnate unsuspecting women without their knowledge or consent. As the women lay in a vulnerable position, waiting to be artificially impregnated, Cline would masturbate in the next room before inserting his own semen into them.
“What made him go to work every day, masturbate and place it inside women unknowingly without their consent?” asks Ballard. She was an only child conceived via sperm donor who was curious to know if she had any long-lost siblings. She signed up for a DNA-testing, ancestry-mapping service to find 10 siblings and 3000 close family hits within a little radius which led to a nightmarish discovery.
An elder member of the church, this baneful, fanatic man had severe cult-like white supremacist beliefs and wanted to reproduce as many times as possible. As devastated fathers and children speak up about the experience, the women are the most violated- their bodies raped and plundered and their trust broken. One such woman says, in a heartbreaking moment, “I was raped 15 times and didn’t even know it.” The flawed judicial system offers no protection for those affected and is reluctant to consider Cline’s heinous crimes as sexual assault or sexual violation. Cline was never punished for the atrocities, he was simply given a one-year suspended sentence for denying his crime.
The most unsettling part of the documentary comes to light when it is revealed that 44 other doctors have been apprehended for illegally inseminating patients without their consent. Released during a strategic time when women and their allies in the United States continue to protest against the oppressive legal reproductive rights that aim to gain control over women’s bodies and agencies, the documentary talks about the regressive power structures that enable men to tighten their malicious grips on women’s bodies, often getting away with such crimes.
A devastating and unsettling documentary, Our Father highlights the failure of the justice system and paints a harrowing picture of the violation of consent by male power structures.