Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Sexual assault, fraternity culture, and judges - in Hunger Moon

Readers are writing in to me this week to comment on the eerie similarities between the plot of my last Huntress novel, Hunger Moon, and the sexual assault accusations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanagh.
That book focused on the rape culture in fraternities that teaches privileged white boys that they can sexually assault girls and young women with impunity, and speculated that the accused sexual predator in the White House might well try to appoint a frat boy sexual predator to the Supreme Court.
And here we are.
Here’s a scene from the book, in which Special Agents Roarke and Epps question a Santa Barbara attorney they suspect of organizing a nationwide rash of vandalism against fraternities.
It’s looking pretty relevant, if I do say so myself.
Please don’t forget to register to vote. And may actual justice prevail.
-       Alex

Andrea Janovy wore fingerless athletic gloves and navigated her hand-powered wheelchair expertly, taut shoulder muscles straining under her tank top. Her auburn hair was cropped close to her head, just a fuzz. 
The agents followed her up a ramp to a sleek, wide-open living space. She had gone to considerable expense to make the house wheelchair accessible. There were ramps everywhere, an elevator up to the second floor. Of course the open floor plan was to give her as much room as possible to negotiate in the chair.
 “I did go through all of this with your Agent Singh a few weeks ago,” she said over her shoulder, then spun the chair around to face a sofa, gestured for Roarke and Epps to sit. “As I told her, I don’t know who was using my ID to get into a Bay Area prison.”
  “What we’re really interested in is your expertise,” Roarke said.
            “Expertise in regard to?”
            Her gaze narrowed.
   Epps expanded on the question. “In many of the instances of vandalism last night, fraternities were specifically targeted for threats. We’d like any insight you can give us about why that would be.”
“In general, you mean.”
“In general, of course.”
She shrugged. “You asked for it.” She leaned forward in her chair. “If your goal is to dismantle the patriarchy, fraternities are a good place to start. That’s where all our best misogynists get trained. And of course, they’re bastions of white male privilege as well.” She looked straight at Epps as she said it. “Fraternities represent an almost cult-like white-cis-hetero-patriarchy  a closed chute that exists to isolate the sons of the privileged among their wealthy peers and keep them moving straight into the highest echelons of society. Fraternities are where the one percent systematically consolidate their wealth and learn how to keep the rest of society enslaved.”
            “Sororities are a chute into the upper echelons of society, too. The difference is sorority girls aren’t being groomed as power brokers. The Greek system propagates and normalizes female inferiority. Sexual assault is a routine part of Greek life and Greek culture. Bluntly, the Greek system is a hunting ground. We are breeding entitled racist misogynists in a petri dish of rape culture. These thugs go on to make laws and enforce laws that perpetuate rape culture.”
She looked Roarke in the eye, and then Epps. “It’s not accidental, lads. This is a finely-honed system of oppression. It’s taken thousands of years to build it. And it’s not going away without all of us using our skill sets to bring it down.”
Roarke took that in. “So your goal is to dismantle the patriarchy.”
She smiled grimly. “You bet your ass my goal is to dismantle the patriarchy. But obviously–” she gestured to her legs.  “I’m not going around scaling university clock towers to do that. I wanted to pick the biggest offender I could go after with my skill set. And that’s fraternities. I’m a fraternal plaintiff’s attorney.”
“Which means – you sue the frats? The universities?”
She grimaced. “That’s an uphill road. College administrators are incredibly reluctant to discipline Greek houses or to publicize the crimes of individual members. They’re much more likely to close ranks around them, block any outside investigation, because universities depend on rich Greek alumni. Also there are very powerful political lobbying groups aimed at protecting fraternities’ interests.” She paused. “So I go after the parents.”
Nothing she had said so far had surprised Roarke. That last did.
“I’ve recovered millions and millions of dollars from homeowners’ policies. That’s how many of the claims against boys who violate the strict policies are paid: from their parents’ homeowners’ insurance.”
Roarke and Epps stared at her, unnerved. “You don’t feel the slightest bit guilty about penalizing the parents?” Roarke asked.
Janovy turned cynical eyes on him. “Did you happen to read the letter the Stanford Rapist’s father wrote to the judge, pleading for leniency for his rapist son? Arguing that his precious boy shouldn’t be penalized for ‘twenty minutes of action?’”
Her loathing was palpable in the room.
“Yes, Agent Roarke. I go after the parents. It’s proved pointless to ask them to instill basic decency in their sons. They won’t lift a manicured finger to stop rapist attitudes, rape culture. So I go after them the only place it seems to hurt them. Their bank accounts. Enough high-profile lawsuits and they might just start getting the message.”
Roarke had to admit it made sense. But he was after something more specific.
“Have you had, or heard about, any complaints about the Kappa Alpha Tau house in particular?”
She went still for a fraction of a second, but Roarke caught it. Then she spoke. “Specifically K-Tau? Not that I know of. Why? Do you know of something?” 
Roarke felt a warning stab at her interest. “Just asking.” 
She regarded him, unsmiling.
Roarke veered quickly to his last question. “Just one more question, if we may.
I’m wondering about the timing of all this. This huge, coordinated action. Why now? It doesn’t seem to be a reaction to anything in particular.”
            She tilted her head. “You don’t see anything significant about the timing?”
            Roarke glanced at Epps. “What timing is that?”
            “We’ve been sitting here for fifteen minutes talking about fraternities. The demonstrations targeted fraternities specifically, if not exclusively. So the Taylor Morton rape trial? It’s going to verdict any day now. Down in San Diego.”
            Taylor Morton? Roarke scrambled to identify the name. She gave him a cold smile. “Can’t quite place it? Maybe because there are so many of these cases out there. Here’s your brief. The accused is a star runner. White, upper middle class, frat boy. The judge is a white middle-aged man, Princeton law school graduate. Oh, and by the way – a Kappa Alpha Tau alum.”
“Kappa Alpha Tau,” Roarke repeated. He and Epps stared at each other.  Coincidence? Or something more?
            “Put all that together – and do we realistically think Morton is going to get jail time?” Her voice shook. “Brock Turner. Austin Wilkerson. These guys are convicted rapists and we can’t get judges to sentence them. At a certain point, you have to start asking yourself how to actually solve the problem. Because a two percent conviction rate doesn’t even begin to count. How long until we have an equal number of female judges? How long before we make even the slightest dent in rape cases? Given the political nightmare we’re now living in, what hope in hell do we have of that happening now?”
            She paused for breath.
“So yeah. I’d kind of expect something to happen around that verdict and sentencing.”
Roarke turned that over in his head for a moment. “So all of this vandalism was, what – anticipatory outrage? Or are you saying that someone has gone to great lengths to set up some dominos to make them easy to knock over when the verdict comes in?”
            Janovy leaned forward. “You keep asking me what I think. What I think is that something’s going to blow. There’s just nothing left to lose anymore. The U.S. government has declared open war on women. Officially, these fuckers are going to try to take away every right we’ve ever fought for. Women are more angry than you can possibly imagine. All we need is one last straw. It could happen any second. And then there’s going to be rioting in the streets. There’s going to be bloodshed.” 
            She sat back. “And that trial? People are watching it. You know why? That misogynistic joke of a judge is on the predator-in-chief’s short list for the Supreme Court.”

All five books in The Huntress series currently on sale, $1.99.
Hunger Moon is the latest in the series, but The Huntress series is written to be read in order! Book 6, Shadow Moon, will be out in January.


                                                            ---- SPOILERS ----

In Hunger Moon, Roarke and his FBI team are forced to confront the new political reality when they are pressured to investigate a series of mysterious threats vowing death to college rapists... while deep in the Arizona wilderness, mass killer Cara Lindstrom is fighting a life-and-death battle of her own.

For thousands of years, women have been prey.

No more. 



Jenni Legate said...

Your novel was spot on, and I'm so grateful to you for shining a light on all of this through your fiction writing.

Unknown said...

Alex, I thoight Hunger Mooon was brilliant and now I think it's bloody brilliant. Yoir ability to “forecast” future political happenings impressed me at the rime I binge read the swries, and impresses me even more now. Waiting not so patiently for book 6 (even if it doesn’t forecast anything). Kudos!


Maureen said...

Scarily prescient. Fabulous series, brilliant latest book.

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hi Jenni! I'm following your overseas adventures. It's great to see you here. Thanks for your light and support. xx

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Hi Chris! Thanks so much for reading and understanding. It seemed scarily inevitable at the time, but we're going to correct that at the midterms, right?

Sorry about Book 6 being late. I've been juggling writing it and the first three episodes of the TV series, but it all works together, ultimately.

Hang in there...

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Thank you, Maureen! I deeply appreciate the support.