I’m not happy. No, this isn’t a post about the things in my life I’m not satisfied with. Rather, it’s a post about something that set my teeth on edge. An author I know recently released a self-published book about a character who falls in love with another character. Yeah, it’s a romance, or it’s supposed to be. What I’m not happy about is this—this book is less than one hundred pages and yet it deals with how a woman overcomes the mental and physical torment brought about by rape and falls in love with her rescuer.
Less than one hundred pages and you’re going to cover a topic that sensitive, that fraught with pitfalls, that…I can’t. I just can’t. Excuse me while I slap the back of my head to dislodge my eyeballs. They got stuck staring at my brain in an epic eyeroll.
As a survivor of sexual assault, to think that anyone can cover the lifelong repercussions of such a traumatic event in less than one hundred pages…eyeroll again. To be that flippant with such an event…Again, words utterly fail me.
To this author, though, I do have some words. Survivors of sexual assault, and especially the type of assault you write of, don’t ever recover. We learn to cope. Because this is written as an historical, your character’s coping skills would be even more hard fought and even harder won. Even today, survivors of sexual assault are shamed and blamed. In the 1800s, the terribly sad fact is while rape occurred, the survivor was doubly victimized in the blame and shame game. The destruction of trust a survivor of rape experiences isn’t overcome with a gentle kiss. I don’t care how virile, how handsome, how thoughtful, how caring you try to portray your hero. That lack of trust in all of humanity takes years to overcome, if it ever can be.
My suggestion to this author is this—the next time you decide to write a story where the main character has survived sexual assault and rape, try talking to a few survivors. You might be surprised at how little you really know about it.
Yeah, I’m not happy. I’m actually angry at how cavalierly this author treated that character and in effect, treated every single survivor. We deserve better than you wrote us.