Anahita Padmanabhan ‘18/ Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This topic is one that has been considered taboo for a while, and is often an uncomfortable subject for our society to deal with, yet it is one of the most pressing issues. Across the nation people are taking a more vocal stance about ending sexual assault. Given the current social and political climate, the issue is becoming more and more visible.
One of the ways that this issue can be brought further into the light and can become less stigmatized is by including it in literature. When done properly, as with most stories that deal with trauma or difficult subjects, it can create a dialogue and a new space to have a conversation about what victims go through.
It’s important that these books exist because it is crucial that we become more aware of sexual assault so that we can find a way to end it. In recognition of this month, here is a list of some books that deal with sexual assault.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
This story surrounds 13-year-old Melinda Sordino, who calls the cops during a party. Angered that she outed them, her peers ostracize her. What they don’t realize is why Melinda called the cops, and she, in response to becoming an outcast, internalizes her emotions to the point where she nearly stops talking. Instead she uses her art to express herself until she finds her voice again. This award winning novel tackles the issue of assault of young teenagers and the silencing of victims.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
15-year-old Charlie goes through his first year of high school while dealing with the suicide of his friend. On top of that, he also deals with the death of his aunt during his childhood. He becomes friends with two seniors, Patrick and Sam, and gets swept up in their lives. As the story moves on more of Charlie’s past gets revealed, and the reader becomes more aware of the mental illnesses that Charlie suffers from as a direct connection to his childhood. This novel deals with not only the topic of child victims of sexual assault, but also the sometimes less discussed issue of sexual assault of boys.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
On her way back from school, Susie Salmon is raped and murdered by her much older neighbor. This story is narrated by Susie’s spirit as she looks down upon her family and friends as they attempt to both find her killer and rebuild their lives. This story deals with other things besides the assault of Susie, but it focuses on Susie feeling a longing for the things she can no longer do, as well as the trauma families and loved ones go through.
Asking for It by Lousie O’Neill
Emma O’Donovan goes to a party. The next morning, she doesn’t remember anything. That is until photographs from the party show what happened to Emma. But Emma is vain, she’s self-centered and judgmental, and overall unlikeable, so when people see the photos of her from that party, it makes them wonder “was she asking for it?” O’Neill’s novel tackles the “asking for it” mentality by forcing the readers to recognize that it doesn’t matter who a person is, what they were wearing, or what they were doing: assault is assault, and it is never the victims fault.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
This novel written over 40 years ago, is an incredibly relevant novel today. We follow Pecola Breedlove, a young African American girl who suffers from abuse by her alcoholic father, Cholly. After Pecola is raped the second time by Cholly, she is left pregnant. The story deals with the aftermath of the trauma as well as her desire to fit in the white Anglo-Saxon community, and her internal struggle with her identity as a black girl. Morrison brings to the forefront the intersectionality of sexual assault, and how people of color, specifically black women, struggle with dealing with sexual assault.
These are just a few books that tackle the issue of sexual assault, and are by no means the only stories to be read. Sexual assault affects everyone, and manifests in many different ways. The hope is that with more stories, more of society can see that this issue is something that can happen anywhere, anytime, and to anyone. The sooner we recognize this issue as something that affects all of us, the closer we become to finding ways to end sexual assault.