4 min read

Respectability, R.I.P.

The freedom and horror of being insufficient.

Update: You can read about the resolution to my fight with the state of Ohio here.


I got a master’s degree. That means I also got a bachelor’s degree (two, actually, plus a minor. With honors. Summa cum laude). I quit drinking, I quit smoking; my skin, someone exclaims once a week when I disclose my age for some reason or other (often in response to them assuming I’m in my twenties), is spectacular. I pay $24,000 a year in rent.

My apartment is full of extremely tasteful furniture. For a long time, I held and excelled at an impressive job. Over the summer, I filmed and fronted a documentary using the world’s most beautiful cinematic lens, and scrubbing through the footage recently, I could see it: how on-point everything looked. The lighting, the quality, my grooming. My surroundings. My teeth—impeccable. The therapist I see, like every therapist I’ve seen for the last 12 years, is licensed, credentialed. My mother, a nice cis woman in her sixties with no criminal record, believes I was sexually abused as a child, and told the police so, at length, more than once. I used to be a fact-checker. The details I gave the cops that were checkable, they checked out.

“We called him,” the detective said of my perpetrator, setting off an explosion of something too severe to be called nerves in my torso, in my nervous system, though my overpriced apartment is hard to find, intentionally so, even if you do have the address; they didn’t warn me they were going to do that. The detective said: “He said he didn’t do it.” They had told me, when I reported it, that what they usually do is have the victim call the alleged child-raper on speaker phone from the police station and see if he’ll just admit to committing child rape. I didn’t see if my mother made the same incredulous face I did, but I did hear both our voices say forcefully and immediately, nearly in tandem, that that was never going to work. Has that ever worked, in the history of police work?

“He said he didn’t do it,” the detective said when he called to say they’d called him. “We don’t have anything but your statement, which will never stick.” They don’t have anything but that one of his close friends, who I reported raping me along with him, was later arrested for molesting different kids; it doesn’t count for anything that I remembered the nurse standing to my right during my incestuous abortion being named Deborah and that they confirmed that was indeed the name of the nurse then working with the doctor I told them did the procedure. She’s dead, so can’t tell them if anything about the scene or the cover story felt off—which also wouldn’t count for anything, the police pointed out, unless, again, he’d outright admitted crimes to her. Ditto the doctor, whom the police called and left many messages for, but who didn’t return any, which is apparently his old-white-guy prerogative and not at all suspicious. The statement given by someone I haven’t seen since I was six years old (and who I hadn’t known was going to become part of the investigation) about how when I was a child I made dolls do things to each other that made her so uncomfortable she remembers it almost forty years later doesn’t mean anything. “Your mother,” the detective said, “has her own axe to grind,” belying that even though she hadn’t witnessed anything but the incessant over-the-clothes touching her husband did to me all day every day in daylight and the other major crimes he got definitively caught for, her testimony didn’t really mean anything, either.

He was arrested for trafficking drugs before he trafficked me, and they know that; after, he embezzled and evaded taxes on millions of dollars for a decade, and they know that, too. He didn’t admit to doing either until someone proved it; even then, he went unprosecuted for both. “He said he didn’t do it,” the detective said, giving me the courtesy of this followup phone call, and so “The case is closed.”

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