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Kiss or crime?

In IDS on December 13, 2010 at 7:31 am

And we’re back! Sorry for the break. I think this will be my last post until the IDS starts publishing in January. If there’s a story from this semester that I didn’t post, send it to me with some comments.

Today I want to talk about Jess Haney’s story. Here’s one section of her story.

JESSICA HANEY (IDS)

As for the guy involved, I doubted he would talk to me. But I didn’t really have anything to lose, so I gave it a try. He texted me and said he did not want to be identified, even by first name. But he agreed to meet at the Starbucks inside the Indiana Memorial Union.

When he showed up for the interview, I was surprised. He was skinnier and smaller than I remembered. I tried to picture him pinning Danielle, but he seemed in no way threatening. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t him.

We sat on the patio outside. It was chilly. He was wearing shorts. After we started to talk, I noticed he was hugging his torso and trembling. Somehow I felt bad for him.

“It’s too cold out here,” I said. “Let’s go inside.”

We went down to the food court and sat at a corner table near Baja Fresh. He told me he’d been a freshman last year. The night of the Villas party, he’d been drinking, too, and said he didn’t remember much. He recalled bumping into Darrah and meeting Danielle and seeing her at the vodka pong party.

“All I know is that at some point in the night we started making out,” he said.

Danielle, he said, was definitely into it. The worst part was finding out later that he knew her boyfriend.

“I felt like shit the rest of the semester.”

As he recounted what he remembered, the guy kept looking around the room. His eyes darted. He couldn’t hold his hands still. When I told him how Caitlin and I had seen him acting so aggressively, his head sank.

“I don’t think it was aggressive,” he said. “I wasn’t even thinking about sex or anything like that. It was harmless.”

I described how he’d straddled Danielle against the electric box, how he leaned over her, pressed into her and put his mouth on hers.

“I don’t have any rebuttal for that,” he said. “Because I don’t remember it.”

I asked why he ran away so suddenly. Did he think he was in trouble?

“I started hearing sirens.” He said he was very aware of cops that night because he was under age and dreaded getting caught drinking. In fact, the first thing he thought the next morning, he said, was “No tickets. Awesome.”

He didn’t even remember who he made out with until someone told him. He insisted he hadn’t been trying to have sex with Danielle. Neither of them, he pointed out, was in a condition to do anything.

“It was a crazy night, but it didn’t get out of control,” he said. The fact that he’s still friends with Danielle and her ex-boyfriend proved to him that the incident wasn’t that serious. “It’s a Little Five story. It’s one of those moments.”

Still, he repeatedly said he felt ashamed — for making out with his teammate’s girl, for being on top of Danielle when she was so drunk, for not remembering any of it. But he said he doesn’t think of himself as a predator.

“I don’t associate with douchebags, or I try not to.”

At parties, he said, he’s usually the one pushing the drunk guys away from girls.

I asked if he thought sexual assault was a problem on campus. He started formulating an answer, but kept tripping over words. He started a couple sentences, then stopped to think again. Obviously flustered, he looked at me for guidance.

“What do you want me to say?”

There are lots of things we could talk about in this story. Here are some suggestions.

  • First person. Did it work? Is there another way the story could have been written?
  • Length. One person commented that this story was too long. It it a little more than 4,000 words long. I think Jess did what she could to keep readers interested. There were nice internal cliffhangers, secondary ledes, and an engine. But clearly some people gave up. Could the story have hooked more readers if different tools were used?
  • Voice. It had to be objective, but provide some answers. That’s a hard balance to strike. I think Jess did a good job placing herself in the scene (literally and figuratively) by using the voice of a college student. Maybe that seems obvious, but I read some drafts of this story where that wasn’t the case.

Post your reactions/thoughts to the story.

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