Heinous – Nicola Maye Goldberg
October 4, 2021
In the evenings, when we were tired from our days of being trained how to be human beings again, the social workers let us watch television. If The Bachelor wasn’t on we usually liked Criminal Minds or Law and Order: SVU or something in that general direction.
On television, a lot of women get raped and murdered. It happens a lot in real life, too, obviously, but I think maybe the rapes and murders of pretty white girls might be slightly overrepresented in mainstream media. Men are the ones who commit these crimes, but women are the ones who watch it for fun. What does that say?
I know what it said about me: that I was unwell. That I was comforted by inserting myself into a narrative where instead of being shamed and shunned, I was loved and mourned and avenged.
Whenever a girl on television is raped and murdered the detectives go to the morgue, where with the help of a coroner they examine the body. “She fought back, hard,” the coroner always says, and points out the defensive wounds to prove it.
No shit, she fought back, I always wanted to say. That’s why she’s dead.
I wasn’t blaming her, the made-up dead girl. But I did know that not fighting back is usually the smart move, especially when someone is bigger and stronger and meaner than you. And that playing dead is a very effective defense strategy.
Those were the kind of thoughts that I knew would make someone on my treatment team think: maybe you shouldn’t watch these kinds of shows. But they really comforted me. If nothing else: imagine living in a world where cops weren’t stupid and evil!
My favorite part of those shows, anyway, were the last few minutes. That’s when the team of brilliant, kind, brave cops figure out who the serial killer is, and rush to the rescue of the latest victim.
“It’s OK, you’re safe now,” they tell her, as they untie her from a radiator or free her from a dog crate or whatever.
Then it cuts to her family embracing her as she’s loaded into an ambulance, bloodied and traumatized but alive, alive, alive. I couldn’t get enough of that shit.