Netflix’s 3-part documentary series, American Nightmare, made us privy to a very intriguing case where the media and the police branded the victims as the culprits, and for the longest time, even the general public believed in their narrative. Denise Huskins had to first go through the trauma of being kidnapped and then sexually assaulted, and then, to make it worse, she had to prove to the authorities that she had not faked her kidnapping. So, let’s find out what happened with Denise Huskins, how she felt during those times, and where she is as of now.
What happened with Denise?
On March 23, 2015, someone broke into Denise and Aaron Quinn’s house in Vallejo at midnight with the intention of probably kidnapping Denise. The kidnapper drugged both Aaron and Denise and then put the latter in his car trunk and took her to an unidentified location. The kidnapper made both victims wear swimming goggles with duct tape stuck over their lenses so that they weren’t able to see anything. Denise was under the influence of drugs, but she tried to stay awake in the car truck and count the number of turns the vehicle was taking so that she could tell the authorities later, and they would find the kidnapper. But she was finding it extremely hard to keep her eyes open, and she kept losing her consciousness time and again. The kidnapper took her inside a house, and though she was blindfolded, she could feel that there was daylight, which meant that a few hours had passed since the time she was kidnapped.
The kidnapper told Denise that he worked for a syndicate operating in the black market that used to kidnap people for money. The man was trying to be excessively sweet to her, and he told her that if she obeyed all his orders, nothing would happen to her, and he would leave her back home safely. He told Denise that he had asked for a ransom from her boyfriend, and the moment he paid, he would release her from captivity. As if things were not already traumatizing for Denise, the kidnapper made it worse when he came with another demand. The kidnapper said that his bosses had contacted him to have some collateral, which could make sure that Aaron didn’t go to the police, and even Denise, after being released, didn’t tell anything to the law enforcement authorities. The kidnapper said that he would have to copulate with her and record it so that if she decided to go to the authorities, they would have some leverage. It actually became an American nightmare for Denise when the kidnapper, after forcing himself on her for the first time, came back again and told her that he would have to record the entire thing once again as the video hadn’t come out the way his bosses would have liked. He told Denise that it should look consensual and that she would have to cooperate if she wanted it not to happen again. Denise gave in because she didn’t have any other option.
There were some developments happening during the time Denise was in captivity in American Nightmare. Aaron was taken into custody by Detective Mustard, and the law enforcement authorities were trying to pin the blame on him. The worst possible thing that the FBI and the detectives did was switch off Aaron’s mobile. They knew that the kidnapper was calling him, and if he didn’t respond, something bad would happen to Denise, but still, they made that reckless move, and it was only Denise’s good luck that nothing happened to her.
Was Denise Huskin fabricating the truth?
The kidnapper, who we later came to know was a man named Matthew Muller, told Denise that he didn’t intend to harm her and that he had gone to her house to kidnap Andre, Aaron’s ex-fiancé. Muller never told anyone why he wanted to kidnap Andrea in the first place. Muller probably realized that he would have to release Denise before it was too late, and since Aaron was in police custody, he was not going to get any ransom money. So, Denise was released, and she believed at that point in time that her nightmare was over, but she was wrong. From her character to the credibility of her testimony, Denise was questioned about everything by the police officers. The officials were just not able to accept that Denise had been released just like that by the kidnapper without being harmed. There was no precedent that anybody could think of, and that was why they wanted to find a scapegoat and get down with the issue. For days, they grilled Denise, and she hired a lawyer named Doug Rappaport as Detective Sesma and Detective Mustard were adamant about proving that Denise was trying to do something similar to what Rosamund Pike’s character had done in David Fincher’s film Gone Girl.
I personally won’t deny that at first, in American Nightmare, to a layman like me, it did seem like something of that sort could happen, but these were seasoned officers, and for them to entertain such a possibility and go to such an extent to prove it was bizarre. They were not ready to look for the kidnapper; they were not even trying to find any leads, as they stuck to the theory that it was Denise who had faked her kidnapping so that she could frame her boyfriend and get revenge on him for talking to his ex-fiance Andrea. Had it not been for SGT Misty Carasau, a PD in Dublin, and the police officers in Vallejo, they wouldn’t have stopped troubling Denise ever. Misty Carasau went out of her way, and she found a connection between an incident that happened in South Lake Tahoe and Denise’s case. She kept at it, and she found that there were a lot of similarities between the two cases, and the perpetrator had the same goggles, duct tape, and white Mustang, which Denise had earlier told the officers about. The media had already branded Denise as the treacherous Gone Girl, and for them, too, it was a shocking revelation that she was speaking the truth the entire time. Imagine the plight of a woman who goes to the authorities seeking help, and instead of making sure that she feels safe, the officers pin all the blame on her and question her credibility. Denise had been sexually abused when she was 12 years old and it happened again with her when she was 19. It had left a scar on her subconscious mind and going through a similar ordeal all over again and not being beelive by the people whom she went for protection was the worst thing that could happen to her.
Where is Denise Huskin now?
Denise married Aaron, and they have two beautiful daughters named Naomi and Olivia. After the incident, Denise moved to the coast, and she says that it was extremely difficult for her and Aaron to move past the traumatic experience they had. Denise and Aaron have written a book titled Victim F: From Crime Victims to Suspects to Survivors, and she never shies away from talking about her case. She believes that there are many people out there who are going through something similar, and they need all the help that they can get.