A few months ago, I started an endeavor. I decided that I was not going to read a single novel that involved rape. It started with a book with a rape scene that was so graphic, I had to put the book down and cry for a little while. On top of that, it was pretty far into the novel that this happened. I cried for the character, but I cried more for the survivors. People who have lived through something so demeaning and traumatizing and are trying to put their life together. It was all I could think about - someone out there who was reading this book, getting to know the characters, immersing themselves in the story only to be confronted with the very thing they are reading to escape from.
It was then that my vow was made - I was not going to read any novels that involve rape. There are some exceptions - non-fiction that is exploring rape culture and feminism, and book club books.
Surprisingly, this is not as easy as you would think. Most books that involve rape (usually as an unnecessary plot device that could easily have been substituted for something less violent, graphic, and triggering) do not it include anywhere on the book jacket or Goodreads description.
At least three times since starting this endeavor, I have started books only to find out that the “terrible thing” or “shocking humiliation” that is described on the book jacket is rape. Why is this okay? Why is this a thing that we accept as a society? If this story is about a character is raped, why not say that?
Look, I get it. You want to reserve some of the mystery. You don’t want to lay all your cards on the table in the description. Cool, sounds good – until the mystery is rape.
One out of every six women is the victim of an attempted or completed rape*. Think about your mothers, sisters, daughters, cousins, and friends. I can almost guarantee that at least one of them has been through this. When that person picks up a book, no matter how far they are in their journey, I’m sure the last thing they want to come across unexpectedly is the same trauma that they have been through.