April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. While a difficult and uncomfortable topic for many to discuss, rape is a deep-seated and prevalent issue that has the ability to harm society just as much as any individual victim. Sexual assault affects everyone; no gender, class, ethnicity, or education can ensure absolute safety. Trauma narratives are as varied and unique as the people that tell them, and in this way, have the opportunity not only to allow survivors a chance to externalize and make sense of their own experiences, but also allow for those experiences to find themselves in a larger framework, eventually leading to a broader understanding about the very real and long term psychological effects of sexual assault.
If you need help but don’t know where to start, consult the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center. For those unable to afford, or unwilling to seek professional therapy, the library can offer a sort of self-guided therapy. Personal memoirs are one way literature is able to help survivors and their loved ones begin the healing process. So often, the simple act of hearing someone else’s story, simply knowing that others exist, is all it takes for someone to feel a little bit less alone in their experience.
Listed below are a few poignant and unforgettable memoirs written about sexual assault.
Hailed for its frankness and wit, Lucky by Alice Sebold is a memoir in which Sebold shares how her life was completely transformed when, as an eighteen-year-old college freshman, she was brutally raped and beaten in a park near her college campus.
In Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, journalist Jon Krakauer investigates a series of campus rapes that occurred in Missoula, Montana over a four-year period. Treating the town as a case study for a crime that is disturbingly rampant throughout the nation, Krakauer documents the experiences of five victims.
In his short and devastating memoir, On Being Raped, Raymond M. Douglas details the experience of being a young man sexually assaulted by a Catholic priest. Douglas recounts this painful event and his experiences navigating the psychological trauma of a crime we still don’t openly discuss: the rape of adult men by men.
When the Piano Stops is Catherine McCall’s bold memoir detailing the abuse she suffered at the hands of her mentally ill father. Now a successful family therapist, McCalls ability to overcome the deeply traumatic experiences of her childhood is an inspiration to those who have been sexually abused.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is Maya Angelou’s groundbreaking memoir in which Angelou describes her struggles growing up female and Black during the Depression. Despite being challenged or banned in schools and libraries over the years for its depictions of childhood sexual assault, racism, and sexuality, this autobiography remains a beloved contemporary classic.