When you write a novel where one of the main characters is raped, you need to dig very, very deep to understand what that means in terms of the physical, emotional, and psychological effect on the victim. For my novel, You Don’t Know Me, the very last thing I wanted to do was diminish, in any way, the profound, life-altering, and seriously damaging effect of such an occurrence.
Let me begin by saying that Chanel Miller is an amazing writer and a woman of great bravery. “Writing is the way I process the world,” Chanel says at the end of her memoir. She states that she writes “to show how victims are treated at this moment in time, to record the temperature of our culture.” The culture of dealing with sexual assault victims.
Chanel Miller’s ability to take the reader into the gritty depths of what happened to her amazed me. I’ve selected a few quotes from her memoir that resonated for me in terms of the system that victimizes victims and the strength required to fight for what’s right. Believe me there are many, many more insightful quotes I could include.
“For years, the crime of sexual assault depended on our silence. The fear of knowing what happened if we spoke. Society gave us one thousand reasons; don’t speak if you lack evidence, if it happened too long ago, if you were drunk, if the man is powerful, if you’ll face blowback, if it threatens your safety.”
“The agony is incessant, unyielding, but when you get to the point where you feel like everything’s gone, there’s a little twist, a flame, a small shift. It is subtle, it comes when you least expect it. Wait for it. This is the rule of the universe, this is the one thing in life I know to be true. No matter how awful and long your journey, I can promise you the turn. One day it will lift.”
“This is not about the victim’s lack of effort. This is about society’s failure to have systems in place in which victims feel there’s a probable chance of achieving safety, justice, and restoration rather than being retraumatized, publicly shamed, psychologically tormented, and verbally mauled.”
“Often it seems easier to suffer rape alone, than face the dismembering that comes with seeking support.”
“Assault buries the self. We lose sight of how and when we are allowed to occupy space. We are made to doubt our abilities, disparaged when we speak.”
After Chanel Miller’s victim impact statement went viral, Joe Biden took the time to write to her. “In his letter, he wrote, I see you. What did it mean that the vice-president of the United States of America had stopped every important thing he was doing, to write I see you.” “Biden said, You have given them the strength they need to fight back. And so, I believe, you will save lives.”
Read Know My Name. You will never look at sexual assault again without compassion, without understanding, and without a deep appreciation for what it takes to merely go on with your life.
You Don’t Know Me – as yet unpublished – is my first contemporary novel.
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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.