Tell Me Everything: The Story of a Private Investigation
“Both well written and intriguing, this is hybrid memoir will stick in your memory long after you finish.”
This is a most unusual memoir of sexual abuse because it recounts two stories that are separate but equally disturbing about how women are treated in some families and by some institutions. And the author Erika Krouse sits at the center of both.
Krouse had survived an early life of being sexually abused from the age of four to seven by her mother’s partner, only referred to as X in this part memoir, part investigative true crime story.
As we meet her years later, Krouse is a young woman drifting from job to job, until she finds herself employed as a private investigator whose assignment hits a little too close to the bone. It is her job to investigate the gang rape of a young woman by a group of college football players.
Krouse gets the job because of her face. She has the kind of face, she writes, that people trust, and she says that, even before she becomes a private eye, she was often on the receiving end of secrets. When a savvy civil attorney finds himself telling Krouse secrets he has never told anyone, he does the smart thing: He hires her as a private eye and asks her to look into a night of criminal sex involving a high-profile college football team and its players.
Krouse is very much a rookie private eye, barely knowing what questions to ask. Aside from her face, she doesn’t have much of an idea how to get people to open up. She learns she must live off her wiles and finds herself making many mistakes, turning off some key people almost from the get-go. But slowly she gets the hang of it by leaning on the catch phrase, “Hey we’re just talking here.”
It’s like Connie Chung telling poor naïve Tonya Harding, “This is just between you and me.”
Krouse reports everything back to her lawyer/mentor Grayson who compliments her plenty but urges her to step back and look at the big picture. Yes, he wants the small details of the night in question, but Grayson wants Krouse to go deeper—to get the goods on the team’s powerful head coach and to get information that the university knew what was going on and looked the other way. It’s the institution Grayson is after as part of a case that he’s building to prove that the university violated the federal Title IX civil rights law.
“We have to prove a culture that discriminates against women by not protecting them,” he tells her.
“He thought for a second. ‘Lawsuits are about stories, sad stories, the kind that make you angry. We still have to create a narrative, but a bigger one, the story of a system. Focus your lens wider, on the program as a whole, how it’s run. Recruiting. Football. Find me something on that.’”
Incredibly, Krouse is able to do exactly what Grayson wants even without any legal training. She turns out to be terrific at getting not just the women but also some of the football players to trust, and slowly, we watch as she and Grayson put one brick on top of another to build a solid case.
It’s fascinating to watch this investigative story play out, but what makes it even more compelling is Krouse’s own history of sexual abuse. Hers is an extremely dysfunctional family. Not only does her mother’s partner sexually abuse her, but her mother also stays with him even after Krouse tells her the truth of what happened. Even Krouse’s older sister seems not to believe her or maybe it’s just that she doesn’t care. This is one cold family.
Krouse has nothing to do with her mother for years but, after she gets married, she asks that her mother visit to meet Krouse’s new husband and see her new house. Sure, she says, I’ll come but only if X can come. Krouse refuses.
Toward the end of the book, Krouse has an awakening. She recalls a time when she was four or five and X had abused her and was getting dressed. “I remember he was pleased, mildly embarrassed at his pleasure . . . something stirred within my stomach, and then my chest, and then the question was out of my mouth before I knew I was going to ask it, or speak at all: ‘Do you love me?’”
Seconds ticked by until X gave his answer. “Yes,” he finally said, curt, and resumed buckling his belt.
“On this terrible day, it was a double gift,” she writes. “He didn’t love me, and he was a liar. He was full of shit, and that house was full of shit. I was disillusioned, released from the burden of false faith. I didn’t have to believe him, or in him, ever again.”
Both well written and intriguing, this is hybrid memoir will stick in your memory long after you finish.