Developing The Whole Truth
I know you’ve all seen the cover now, and being (as experienced crime readers) pretty sharp about these things 😉 I’m sure you’ve got a good idea already about the central issue I’m tackling this time. And you’re right – The Whole Truth explores sexual assault, sexual harassment, and the politics of #MeToo, set in the especially sensitive context of a university environment.
It’s a sad fact that most women have experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lives. I certainly have. One of my first bosses in the City actually handed me my bonus cheque with the words ‘Go and buy yourself some knickers’. And that was just a mild example of the way things were back then. Admittedly, that was a long time ago now, and I know that macho cultures like that have significantly changed: thankfully it’s no longer acceptable for people to shout sexually explicit comments at women in the office, as happened to me and other graduate trainees I worked with. But, even now sadly, sexual harassment is far from dead; it’s just gone underground. You only have to watch the recent Jeffrey Epstein documentary, Filthy Rich, to realise that (it’s harrowing, sickening, infuriating viewing, but I do recommend it).
The Epstein story is one of those that would struggle to get past the first editorial discussion if you proposed it as fiction; it’s just so – literally – incredible. Not just the whole idea of such a vast ‘pyramid selling scheme’ for accessing and abusing young girls, but the fact that such a thing could be actively encouraged and promoted by another woman. It just beggars belief. All the same, I’m sure there are novels in development right now, that are taking their inspiration from those events. But the very fact that Epstein’s case is so unusual, and took place in an environment so far distant from most people’s day-to-day experience, is actually a good reason not to tap into it, at least in my point of view. Because the most depressing aspect of sexual exploitation is how common it is. Not just confined to Hollywood, or the mansions of the über-wealthy, but happening all around us every day.
That’s one aspect of #MeToo I wanted to explore in The Whole Truth. But not the only one. As I mentioned, I also wanted to look at how these issues play out in a campus context, with all the additional complications of sexual politics, power politics, and tutor/student relationships.
And there had to be a twist, too. I mean, it wouldn’t be an Adam Fawley book without a twist, now would it?
It’s an area of sexual offence crime that scarcely ever gets mentioned. And yet there are around twelve thousand incidents reported in a typical year. And needless to say, the impact on the victims is no less harrowing.
What I’m talking about is sexual assaults on men. According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, 20% of women and 4% of men have experienced some form of sexual assault in their lives, which is equivalent to 3.4 million female and 631,000 male victims.
Most of us would probably assume that when an attack like this happens to a man, it must have been perpetrated by another man. And admittedly, that is usually the case. But not always. A significant minority of these assaults are committed on men, by women. It’s not common, but it does happen.
And that’s the question The Whole Truth sets out to answer:
What happens when #MeToo becomes #HeToo?