There’s a scene in Allegedly where Mary is sexually assaulted in her prison cell by a CO. Mary’s twelve and the officer jerks off on her and walks away, without letting her take a shower to clean herself.
That scene really happened. Not to me, but to one of my five interviewees. The girl told me the story over chicken nuggets and french fries in a McDonald’s at Atlantic Terminal, a neutral place we agreed to meet at. She told the story in such unnerving stoic detail that I had a hard time keeping a straight face. In fact, I didn’t know how to react. She was so numb and indifferent, while I felt like a puddle of tears. Later on, I went home and laid on the floor for a solid twenty minutes, processing before I got up to write.
The original scene was over a page long. It had depth, smells, and, sounds. Due to it’s graphic nature, and being that Allegedly is a book meant for teenagers, we trimmed it down to a paragraph. But I refused to remove it. No way would I trivialize what happened to this girl, no matter how uncomfortable it made people feel. No matter if librarians find my book to “extreme” for their readers. I owed the girl who was brave enough to tell me her story a platform to share her experience without watering it down.
My response to the criticism: You’re uncomfortable? Good. Remember that feeling. Remember that there are girls out there REALLY experiencing it. You don’t like that? Good. Now, what are you going to do about it?