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The Compliance Movie's True Story Is Even Worse Than What Happened On-Screen

Trigger warning: Please note that this article deals with coercion and sexual assault.

Making movies based on true stories is one of the most tried and true strategies when it comes to looking for a gripping or unique film. However, sometimes the story in question is so shocking, troubling, or hard to believe that it can be challenging for the filmmaker to tell the story or for the audience to take it in.

Such is the case with Craig Zobel's 2012 thriller, "Compliance." Inspired by a real-life strip search phone call scam, the film follows a restaurant manager, Sandra (Ann Dowd), who is tricked by a caller into coercing her employee, Becky (Dreama Walker), into a harassing, demeaning and ultimately exploitative position.

The story is disturbing because of its grueling subject matter and because, as the title of "Compliance" suggests, Sandra and Becky go along with the scam simply because they are being told to by a supposed authority figure. However, the real story that inspired "Compliance" is actually even more troubling. While the movie charts the real-life case of Donna Summers and Louise Ogborn that took place in 2004, the alleged perpetrator had far more victims and was operating the scam for roughly ten years before this event.

This is just one incident in a long list of depraved scams

David Richard Stewart is thought to be the man responsible for the crimes and was eventually arrested after the above incident, which occurred at a McDonalds in Mount Washington, Kentucky. However, this was just one of many incidents that had transpired over the previous decade.

What each of the scams had in common was that a caller would pose as a higher-up in the company or a member of law enforcement and allege an employee had committed a crime. He would then demand that the employee be illegally searched, often in a degrading and humiliating manner.

While Stewart was arrested as the scam caller behind the events that inspired "Compliance," he was ultimately not convicted of the crimes due to a lack of evidence. However, it is notable that the calls stopped after Stewart's arrest. As for Donna Summers and Louise Ogborn, both were awarded compensatory damages from McDonalds as a result of the case. While "Compliance" focuses on the final victims of the scam, it's important to note that the experiences of previous victims were no less harrowing or damaging despite not being a part of the film's plot.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).