Believe Me: The Abduction of Lisa McVey has been a surprise hit with Netflix viewers since it arrived on the streaming service in the UK and other territories on June 1.
It has led viewers to delve into the harrowing true story that inspired the movie and what happened to Lisa McVey since the events of 1984, when she was abducted by serial killer Bobby Joe Long and eventually helped police to arrest him.
Believe Me actually debuted on Lifetime in the US and Showcase in Canada in 2018 and isn't a Netflix original movie. That hasn't stopped viewers being compelled by McVey's story three years later.
The movie even has the support of McVey, who attended a special screening of the movie in 2018 which took place at the same cinema in Tampa, Florida where Long was finally captured at in 1984.
But how accurate is it to the real story of what happened to McVey in 1984 and where is she now?
Note: The following contains discussion of sexual misconduct that some readers may find upsetting.
Believe Me true story explained
Although Believe Me takes some creative licence with certain elements (specifically how much people believed McVey's story after her escape), it's surprisingly faithful to the real-life events.
On November 3, 1984, McVey was 17 years old when Long knocked her off her bike and pulled her into his car. "I remember pleading with God – whatever you do, just don't let him kill me," she told Fox 13.
Long is believed to have raped and murdered at least eight women in the 1980s and he held McVey for 26 hours "at gunpoint". "He raped me over and over again. I lost count," she explained.
As shown in Believe Me, McVey had suffered abuse at the hands of her grandmother's boyfriend, and she believed that this experience was what helped her to talk Long out of killing her.
"I had to take all of the abuse I had incurred as a child and just reach down one more time, into the pit of my stomach, and tap into those survivor skills in order to overcome him psychologically," McVey recalled.
"I said, 'Listen, it's unfortunate how we met, but I can be your girlfriend. I could take care of you, and no one ever has to know.'"
She added that she talked to him "like a 4-year-old" and also said at one point that she had a sick father she had to care for. It worked and Long took her to a place near where he abducted her, and released her.
"So he drove off. I pulled my blindfold down, and the first thing I saw was this gorgeous, beautiful oak tree. That's the moment I knew my life was about to change for the good. I saw the branches of new life," McVey explained.
Using elements she learned from detective TV shows, McVey made sure to leave her fingerprints in Long's bathroom during her ordeal, as well as remembering details such as a "Magnum" nameplate on his car and various aspects of his appearance.
"At one time he placed my hands on his face. There were pockmarks, a small mustache, small ears, short hair, clean-cut, kind of stout, but not overweight; a big guy," she noted.
"I was calm when I told my story, but I knew I had to help them, I had to find this guy before he struck again."
As a result of McVey's information, Long was captured in 1984 and a year later, he pleaded guilty to eight murders, as well as the kidnapping and assault of McVey. He received 28 life sentences and one death sentence for the murder of 22-year-old Michelle Simms.
While the movie states he's still on death row, that's no longer the case as Long was executed in May 2019. McVey was one of the witnesses in attendance and gave a powerful statement where she read the names of each of his victims aloud.
"Bobby Joe Long, thank you... Thank you for choosing me instead of another 17-year-old little girl. The reason why I say 'thank you' now is because I have forgiven you for what you have done to me," she said.
"Had I not forgiven you, I might as well be in my own prison, without walls. God has shown me the only way to really be free when someone bestows injustice against you is complete forgiveness. My life changed forever, and for the better. I chose not to remain a victim, I chose to live."
Believe Me on Netflix: Where is Lisa McVey now?
As mentioned at the end of Believe Me, Lisa McVey – now Lisa McVey Noland – became a Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy specialising in sex crimes and working to protect children.
"[I'm] a protector. No one's going to get hurt on my watch," she told Fox 13 in 2019. "That was my motivation to become a police officer. I'm no longer a victim."
She also works as a school resource deputy working at a middle school close to where it happened and is a motivational speaker. In 2018, she said that she hoped Believe Me would empower victims to overcome their circumstances:
"It's to show people how to embrace life after horrific things happen to you. Maybe physical things, maybe mental or emotional, I want to be an inspiration to others."
Believe Me: The Abduction of Lisa McVey is available to watch on Netflix.
If you've been affected by the issues raised in this story, you can access more information from Rape Crisis England and Wales, who work towards the elimination of all forms of sexual violence and sexual misconduct, on their website or by calling the National Rape Crisis Helpline on 0808 802 9999. Rape Crisis Scotland’s helpline number is 08088 01 03 02.
Readers in the US are encouraged to contact RAINN, or the National Sexual Assault Hotline on 800-656-4673.
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