VANGUARD INCARCERATED PRESS: Teenage Victims and Coercive Cops

Photo by AJ Colores on Unsplash

By Dymitri Haraszewski

If Americans agree that taking advantage of young people’s naivete and insecurities is repugnant, then why aren’t we outraged that cops routinely exploit kids in exactly this way? After reading Ari Morales’ heartbreaking account of his experience as a teenage victim of coercive interrogators (“A True Story”, Dec. 2023), I felt compelled to offer the different but equally tragic story of a youngster who was ruthlessly exploited by agents of a system that never gave a damn about the truth or his best interests. This man is now serving a life sentence for murder in another state and wishes to remain anonymous, but he described his first encounter with callously deceitful cops when he was in middle school. They subjected him to all the manipulations Mr. Morales suffered, even though this person was never even suspected of a crime. Instead, he was a suspected victim, so his accusation—if the police could get one from him—would be the only evidence for a presumed “crime” that they desperately wanted to prosecute.

Consequently, this young man had none of the usual legal protections from the psychological warfare his interrogators waged against him because those seasoned detectives and social workers were only extracting his “confession” to convict someone else, not himself. The tactics they used on him and thousands of kids like him each year were designed to squeeze involuntary confessions from hardened criminals, so he found himself in the claws of a system that only pretended to care about him while using him as a tool in its fanatical panic to root out certain imagined “criminals,” even when that system itself has to exploit the children it claims to protect to create the “criminals” it so eagerly wishes to punish. This is a story that’s rarely heard, and it is his True Story.

Hi, My name is (Anonymous), and I was convicted of murder at 19. People who knew me as a kid think I must’ve killed my father, but I didn’t. God knows he deserved it, but I’m in prison now for killing a stranger I perceived as a threat while my asshole father got to die of natural causes and even insult me one last time on his way out. Anyway, 5 years before my crime I went through a whole different kind of interrogation, and that’s what I want to tell you about because most people haven’t heard of this type before.

When I was 14, I had an 18-year-old friend. I never told him the hell I went through with my father because I just wanted to enjoy our time together. My life was fucked up before he showed up; then for a brief time, it was fun. We drove around in his ugly car, ditched school to go hike at the beach, and sometimes he showed me martial arts moves for fun, but even though he was just playing I took it seriously because I’d hoped to learn something to use against my father, and I never told him that either.

In some ways, our friendship was a bit strange, but I did call him a true friend, and I’ve learned that’s a rare find. So why was it strange? It wasn’t his age because we liked the same things and connected on the same level. We liked the same things and really connected on the same level. He wasn’t my babysitter or even a big brother figure, though I do call him. We were just good friends who liked hanging out with each other. Our main difference was, he’s gay and I’m not, so that was a bit strange just having a gay friend. Being gay wasn’t as normal and accepted then like it is now. At 14 I already had more sexual experience than him, and he was afraid to tell me about himself for a long time, even though I’d already figured it out. When he did tell me, still nothing ever happened because it just wasn’t my thing. I liked him as a friend, nothing more.

By 14 I was also already on probation for all sorts of stuff. One condition was I had to talk to a counselor every month. She said whatever I told her would be kept in confidence, and back then I still didn’t understand that everyone in authority is a fucking liar and that they lie to kids most of all. So I took her at her word and talked to her about my older gay friend, just for her guidance or opinion, and, gee, that worked out great. I didn’t know she’d call the police, that was never my intent, but soon she was asking me about abuse, so I started telling her about some of the physical and sexual abuse I’d experienced since I was six years old, just because I couldn’t hold it in anymore. Then the questioning kept getting worse and the cops got involved, and I’d say one thing and they’d twist it and make it seem like I’d be in trouble if their version isn’t what I meant to say.

They pressured and fed me stories and I had so many people in my face coaching me on what they said could’ve happened to the point I almost didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t anymore. They even asked me about a murder because the victim was my girlfriend a year earlier, so when I described the last guy I saw her with as similar to my older friend, they refused to believe my friend was standing right next to me, and they just looked alike because those cops were so sure I was just trying to protect him. Luckily, he didn’t get convicted of that too! It all got way out of hand because I was a kid trying desperately to get out of a shitstorm I wasn’t prepared for, so, in the end, I’m ashamed to admit, I screwed my friend over and stabbed him in the back for my own self-preservation; that’s how the cops made me feel.

I was scared of so many things, including my father at home. From the time we met when I was 13, right up to the day I spoke to that counselor and ruined my friend’s life by pulling him down into my own horrid world, I look back at our time together and smile, but then I also remember all the times my father fucked me up physically or fucked with me sexually, so that day when the cops started pressuring me with their threats and tricks and lies, nothing I told them was even about my friend, but I was just too chickenshit to actually say, “No, all that shit I just told you, therapist, is about my father, not my best friend.” When I did try to tell them my buddy never abused me, they refused to believe me and just kept pushing and pressing until I felt I had no choice but to say what they wanted to hear, so even though he was part of the very little good I had going in my life at that time, by my own hand I fucked it up so catastrophically and ruined his life too.

For years I feared he’d hurt and betray me if he could because, in my mind, “turn about is fair play,” and I felt I so richly deserved some from him. But when he finally reached out many years later, we truly reconnected. I answered his questions and explained I’d never meant to hurt him, but the cops took advantage of me in every way they could. If anyone besides my shitty father ever abused me, it was clearly the police and social workers and just the whole fucked up system that only cared about their careers but never about me. Maybe they didn’t make me a killer, but they sure made my terrible life even worse and left me with a lot of guilt for all the unnecessary damage they made me do to a good friend’s life. That’s my story.

** There you go, folks. An experience that few will ever hear of despite it happening to countless people every year. I believe if we really care about the well-being of kids and if we really want a society with less violence and more loving, happy people, we need to start addressing the endless yet often untold abuses police regularly commit against young and old alike. Truth matters, so let’s stop being so afraid to hear and tell it.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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