What is more traumatizing? Learning that your son might have been sexually assaulted — or trying to bring his attackers to justice?
That’s the question posed by tonight’s episode of American Crime, as Anne Blaine deals with the fallout of her season-premiere-concluding phone call to 911. Although the authorities are involved now, neither Anne nor her son, Taylor, can see much of a light at the end of the tunnel. A police investigation means Taylor, with tears rolling down his cheeks, must submit himself to a physically and emotionally humiliating rape kit while Anne undergoes unsympathetic runaround after runaround. Whether it’s the police officers responding to her 911 call or the detectives assigned to the case, Anne is having a lot of trouble getting the authorities to take her concerns seriously. Like headmaster Leslie Graham last week, no one wants to believe that a boy could have been raped by other boys.
The victim-blaming also continues to be rampant here, with one of the first-responding cops saying how there’s not much they can do if a still-in-shock Taylor continues clamming up on the subject:
“If he’s not going to help us, then we can’t help him.”
Later, once the case is passed along to a detective, Anne continues to use up most of her energy convincing this law-enforcement figure that her son was sexually assaulted by other males. The detective, whose face we barely see — which adds to the effect of the nameless, faceless system that has refused to help Anne and Taylor — also doesn’t buy the story that the teenager was drugged. He spends their entire conversation playing devil’s advocate (“[Drugging] is a lot of effort because you don’t like somebody”), making Anne, once again, look and feel crazy. The detective also sends Anne right back to where she started, citing the fact that the incident involves minors, so it really should be handled by the school, not the police. He pretty much writes this off as “kids doing dumb stuff” and that perhaps this is a sign Taylor might have a drinking problem, so Anne should get him some help.
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The only place where Anne doesn’t experience any victim-blaming is during therapy. And that’s only because her therapist would rather put the onus on her than Taylor. She’s advised to stop pressuring her son to talk about what happened and that her priority is to make sure whatever she is doing “has a positive effect” on him. Even this damn therapist is using a bunch of Leslie Graham-speak on Anne, which is the last thing she needs to hear after all she’s been through. He actually asks if Taylor “engages” with her.
Yeah, he engages with his mother — to tell her that all he wants is for this trauma to go away.
Unfortunately for Taylor, that’s not going to happen anytime soon, even though, as Anne observes, that’s exactly what the Leyland School is trying to do. But that would just mean no support for Taylor and no punishment for the boys who attacked him. So, just as she did last week, a frustrated Anne is forced to take matters into her own hands and makes a decision that, like the 911 call, might end up putting Taylor through more stress than the rape kit. (It should be noted that since we don’t receive the results of the forensic exams in this episode, we can’t rule out any further police investigation just yet.)
NEXT: “It happens more than you think”
Anne reaches out to a local newspaper reporter and talks to her at length about the systematic failure she’s endured at the hands of the people who are supposed to help her and her son. She knows she and Taylor are not alone, as she’s found dozens of articles about similar, rape-related stories. “It happens more than you think,” Anne tells the reporter. “The school wants to hide it. The police will ignore it. I shouldn’t have to beg people to care about my son!”
Anne’s concerns here are completely valid, and having found no assistance from Leyland or the authorities, this is the next logical step. But will this send Taylor further into his hole of pain and self-loathing? The reporter promises not to use Taylor’s name in her article, but she warns Anne that people will figure out his identity pretty quickly. Anne then makes the tough decision between getting traction on their case and avoiding Taylor’s further suffering: She tells the reporter to print the story.
Meanwhile, over at the Leyland School, Leslie is indeed trying to “close out” the Taylor Blaine problem. This means creating whatever smoke-and-mirror effect is necessary to demonstrate that the school “took it seriously,” while causing the least amount of damage — and most importantly, allowing Leslie to continue her focus on the job she was hired to do: raising more money.
Those “disciplinary measures” she assured Anne had taken place last week? Total balderdash. So good ol’ basketball coach Dan Sullivan is tasked with the following assignment: Make an example of one of the co-captains by taking him out of one game, and all will be right with the world.
But even selecting one of the two students in question proves to be a sensitive matter, because no matter who it is, there will be some sort of outcry on the subject of race and/or class. Will it be white co-captain, Eric Tanner, or African-American co-captain, Kevin LaCroix? Eric is ultimately chosen as the fall guy, mainly because Leslie knows how powerful the LaCroix family is — and not only with their checkbooks. As the headmaster explains to Coach Dan, she “doesn’t want to get into things with the LaCroix family.”
Given what we observe of Kevin’s mother, Terri LaCroix, in tonight’s episode, Leslie may have a point. First of all, it appears this woman has police detectives in her pocket. After she has what she calls “an incident” while driving to work, Terri immediately calls a detective with whom she’s on a first-name basis and asks him to “take care of” the “aggressive” driver she came across. Adding to the suspect nature of Terri’s behavior, we don’t see who really cut off whom when the near-accident happened (for all we know, Terri could’ve been in the wrong here). She just calmly and slowly pulls away from the scene, taking down his license plate information and snapping several photos of the antagonistic driver (who happens to be white; it’s the first question the detective asks her, which leads me to believe race comes into play a lot whenever Terri is concerned).
NEXT: The truth about Eric
But now that Eric has been punished for what allegedly went down at the captains’ party, and not Kevin, he feels unfairly ostracized for something that, according to their brief exchange between classes, was both of their faults. Whatever happened that night still remains unclear, but now we know Kevin and Eric were involved as Kevin tells his friend to keep his mouth shut and let the incident go. That’s going to be pretty hard for the basketball player as we delve further into his backstory tonight: Not only is he the child of a broken home, but he’s gay and predominantly in the closet. That doesn’t necessarily make him Taylor’s attacker, though being into dudes as well as the sole individual disciplined for sending around sexually provocative photos of another boy is, at best, an unfortunate combination right now.
Much of Eric’s screen time tonight is used to illustrate how conflicted he is about his sexual orientation. He has a semi-anonymous encounter with an unidentified guy who lets him both drive his fast car and kiss him. But that’s all he wants to do — kiss. Nothing more. It’s possible he is experiencing confusion about what happened with Taylor or just his own feelings. At this early stage of the season, it’s just too soon to know what’s what.
- Another season 1 returnee pops up in tonight’s episode: Elvis Nolasco is Chris Dixon, an overworked and overwhelmed principal at the local high school – where Taylor’s girlfriend, Evy Dominguez, is a student. At first, it seems like his scenes serve solely as parallels between Leslie’s gleaming private-school world and his gritty public-school universe (their board meetings are strangely similar). But he is an administrator who actually does care about the students, from both an educational and a wellbeing standpoint. We first meet him as he’s breaking up a fight between Evy’s Hispanic guy friend and her African-American pal (Hispanic dude doesn’t like her hanging with those who aren’t her own). When he’s not averting race wars in his hallways, Chris is forced to accept a tit-for-tat deal with the superintendent just so he can get his own issues heard. But that doesn’t necessarily make the superintendent the bad guy: She has three degrees but feels she’s little more than a “fast-food manager,” as the school-board meetings are regularly usurped by discussions regarding the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
- I’m getting to be an early fan of Dan and Steph Sullivan’s daughter, Becca. First, she awesomely brushes off her dad’s weak attempts at a sex talk by informing him, “I’ve seen porn.” Also, she may be another ally for Taylor in the coming weeks. Where Dan sees Taylor as “a dumbass whose life got ruined,” Becca thinks he just had one bad night: “He got drunk; that’s all.”
- While I praised American Crime‘s use of extreme close-ups last week, as a way of heightening the tension in the narrative, I do feel the technique was overused tonight. There is such a thing as too much intensity.