by Liz Clift, CCASA Intern
Katie.com: My Story by Katherine Tarbox (2000) is the autobiographical story of a girl who was a young teenager in 1995, and who met a (supposedly) young man on an internet chat room meant for teens. This man, who she came to know as Mark, told her that he was 23. He groomed her, acting as a support system and as a friend, and she felt that the relationship was mature – and that others wouldn’t understand. Eventually, he convinced her to meet him, and when she did, he molested her. He also turned out to be not 23, as he’d originally told her, or 31 as he’d later confessed to being, but 41 – and Katie was not his only victim (SPOILER: after taking a plea deal, the man who used the alias of Mark gets only 12-21 months in prison).
The narrative follows the evolution of their friendship, and the eventual trial. It also follows the path of blame that is placed on Katie, and how some people begin to work through their blame to understand that Katie was not at fault. Readers have the opportunity to understand how Katie wants to first protect Mark – and then eventually feels no sympathy for him, as she recognizes the depth of his deceit and comes to terms with the fact that she is, in fact, the victim.
While this book handles the reality of internet-based serial pedophilia well – at least as it relates to this particular episode of luring a teenage girl (as well as many teens, it turns out), it sometimes reads like an after school special, where there’s a quick moral at the end about the evils of the internet. This opinion is perhaps highlighted by the fact that while the internet plays such a large role in Katie’s interactions with Mark, it is never mentioned again after their relationship is discovered.
The book is also filled with many judgments. Katie places harsh judgment on sex workers and trans* folks, and this is never problematized in the book itself, and could be triggering for some people, and that should be taken into account if this book is recommended to others.