TW: Sexual assault of a minor.
In 2016, players from a high school basketball team sexually assaulted one of their teammates while at a conference. Three players were found guilty, only one of which was actually found guilty of rape. They all basically got away with a slap on the wrist.
This was about a year before I wrote A Disturbing Prospect.
This story haunted me. Based on news articles and tweets, it sounded like the school—or at least staff involved with the team—tried covering the whole thing up. The coach rushed the survivor to the hospital for emergency surgery, but didn’t report the incident. The superintendent cancelled the remainder of the basketball season, but didn’t publicly address why. According to the Times Free Press, “the judge initially refused to disclose the verdict or to allow reporters to cover the trial, claiming that it could harm the now-guilty defendants, who were juveniles at the time of their arrest.”
Our society is too often more concerned about protecting rapists instead of supporting victims. Even if a rapist is found guilty and convicted, the sentencing is often the bare minimum, with an emphasis on the negative effect it’d have on them, rather than the lifelong trauma they brought onto their victim.
This boils my blood. Here we had a young athlete, who had just as promising a future as the boys who held him down and sodomized him with a pool stick. He should’ve been supported and protected.
When I wrote A Disturbing Prospect, I knew where I wanted to take the series, but I wasn’t sure if my readers would be into a book/series like it. I wrote it as a book that could stand on its own if my readers weren’t feeling it, but could easily be built on if I got the green light. I knew exactly where I wanted to go with this series, if they let me. As soon as I realized my readers not only loved it but also wanted more ASAP, I started writing A Risky Prospect.
I wanted to incorporate a story like what happened to the teen in Tennessee because I wanted to bring awareness to how rape affects boys and men, and how rampant sexual assault is in sports. I created the character Bryce to represent all of the boys who’ve survived sexual violence in silence.
I needed to know what happened to the basketball player. He was never named and I wanted to give him the help and support he deserved.
Originally, Bryce’s story was part of A Risky Prospect. I wrote about 20,000 words of that first draft before I realized I needed to tell Olivia’s story first, to establish why she wanted to help Bryce so badly. I moved Esther’s story to A Risky Prospect because it tied in well with Olivia’s. Both of them grew up with absentee mothers who were neglectful at best. (Bree’s story is told in Her Mercy to explain why she wasn’t able to be present for Olivia; she’s a victim, too.) Those relationships played a huge part in the violence they both suffered.
Once I established those storylines, I was able to move Bryce’s front and center in A Fatal Prospect. I wanted to write this storyline as realistically as possible, while also giving Bryce the support he deserved.
From a young age, I learned that I couldn’t trust authority figures to protect or even support me. I drew on these experiences and the news to flesh out how the school, town, and police department handled what was done to Bryce. Then I let the River Reapers take over his case.
Since outlaws inherently don’t trust authorities, either, it was actually easy to write from the club’s point of view. Olivia, Cliff, and the MC make an effort to work with police, but there’s a lot of mistrust there and the police can’t legally take the case any further without the proper physical evidence. The club knows they want to support survivors like Olivia, Esther, and Bryce, and this is a sort of test run for them so they can eventually branch out and protect survivors as a service.
They’re completely new at this and they have to make mistakes before they can finesse their system. Unfortunately, their internal issues and historic rivalries don’t give them the time they need to reach any level of efficiency. The shit hits the fan and the club is thrown into reactive mode.
Bryce represents the innocence that is stolen when a person rapes someone. He’s a boy and, according to society, supposed to be strong—especially since he’s a football player. Pink is a soft color, and I gave him pink hair to remind readers that he’s still a victim, and all victims deserve justice.
Read the River Reapers MC Series
Photo by Liz Weddon on Unsplash