ALC Review: Tell Me Everything by Erika Krouse

Part memoir and part literary true crime, Tell Me Everything is the mesmerizing story of a landmark sexual assault investigation and the private investigator who helped crack it open.

Erika Krouse has one of those faces. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this,” people say, spilling confessions. In fall 2002, Krouse accepts a new contract job investigating lawsuits as a private investigator. The role seems perfect for her, but she quickly realizes she has no idea what she’s doing. Then a lawyer named Grayson assigns her to investigate a sexual assault, a college student who was attacked by football players and recruits at a party a year earlier. Krouse knows she should turn the assignment down; her own history with sexual violence makes it all too personal. But she takes the job anyway, inspired by Grayson’s conviction that he could help change things forever–and maybe she could, too.

Over the next five years, Krouse learns everything she can about P. I. technique, tracking down witnesses and investigating a culture of sexual assault and harassment ingrained in the university’s football program. But as the investigation grows into a national scandal and a historic civil rights case, she finds herself increasingly consumed. When the case and her life both implode at the same time, she must figure out how to help win the case without losing herself. 

CW: this book has both child sexual abuse and sexual assault/rape on campus as well as the backlash that comes from reporting. It’s a very difficult read, so please take care.

I’m completely unaware of the sexual assault case this book is based on, probably because I don’t know anything that happens in the college football world. But when I saw a few reviews of the book, I knew I wanted to understand more.

I listened to the audiobook and while it’s not narrated by the author herself, I think the narrator did an amazing job capturing the raw emotions throughout, especially the sense of despair and helplessness that permeates due to the heart breaking situation of all the women who were assaulted and only received more allegations instead of justice, and the author herself who is a victim of child sexual abuse. As a reader, we also feel immense rage that such rape culture was deemed permissible by the university because they wanted to keep their coaches and players who felt entitled to women’s bodies, and I can’t believe that there exists an educational institution which felt winning football matches was more important than creating a safe and non discriminatory place for all its students. It just horrified me.

Just like the author herself who was a private investigator for the lawyer suing the university and had the task of talking to and convincing many of the women to be witnesses, I too felt uncomfortable sometimes that the women were being retraumatized by having to recount their experiences and then having to deal with threats and slut shaming but with no justice in sight. The author masterfully blends her own story within this narrative, talking about how the absence of support from her family, especially her mother, when she disclosed her abuse, has shaped her life. Reading about her anxieties, the numerous amounts of therapies and medications she tried to feel better, the affect her own experiences had in the way she felt about all the women she was meeting – it was all quite harrowing but I also was rooting for her and everyone to get the support and justice so that they could find peace in their lives. I was glad the author found a good man in her husband, who was her rock during difficult times and I could only hope that all the women had someone in their corner too.

While there is some resolution and relief to the plaintiffs, in the end, what the author says is true. There’s hardly any justice done because money can’t compensate for the horrors the women went through, and it’s not right that none of the perpetrators or enablers were punished. To know that some of them went on to play or coach in the NFL or even kept working in the same university just shows that violence against women will never be treated fairly and whatever small victories the survivors can gain, it’s only because of the many who keep fighting the fight against ugly odds.

PS: Thank you to Macmillan Audio and Netgalley for providing me with this advanced listening copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.

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