Going into this book I wasn’t expecting too much besides that the personal story that the author would tell to be really impactful. A story that got a lot of media attention in the US about how a young girl got assaulted by a Stanford student on campus grounds. What I wasn’t prepared for, was how incredibly well written it would end up being, which was a very positive surprise! The author masterfully weaves her narrative into a poetic style, that manages to convey descriptions beautifully. All that is done with an energetic and insistant voice, with a force behind it, that leaves you in awe regarding how personal, intimate and emotional the topic is.
“I was a palette of warm, sandy tones, a glowing vessel in this room of bleached coats and teal gloves.” (p. 12)
“When we think of people fitting together, we may think of a man inserting himself into a woman, but there are many ways we overlook. The way ears are thin as construction paper, allowing one to press the side of my face against his chest. Fingers can be interlaced without getting tangled. One hand can create a tiny chair for one chin. We are designed to bend and fold, to comfort ourselves and each other. We have so many parts that need tending to.” (p. 58)
“No. The single syllable on my tongue felt like nourishment, tasted like something new. I wanted the two little letters to slip inside his ears like seeds, to settle inside his gut, to expand, pushing on his lungs, his heart, suffocating him from the inside out, until he was overcome, bursting out of his buttoned shirt.” (p. 117)
This is such an important read for both men and women, touching upon the topics of consent, what it is like to be a woman in this world, being forced to follow the rules imposed by men and how broken the current system is, considering the injustice towards victims of rape, assault and violence. If you were wondering why throughout the recently emerged “me too” movement so many women were only coming forward years and years later to put down their accusations against certain individuals (even I found myself questioning that), you’ll get a very impactful response to that. The author manages to get across what kind of a process one has to endure if one takes the decision to seek justice after an assault that took place. How traumatising, time taking, emotionally draining and at times even simply impossible it is.
“Three years and eight months after that night in January, the case was closed.” (p. 322)
“Often it seems easier to suffer rape alone, than face the dismembering that comes with seeking support.” (p. 287)
“When society questions a victim’s reluctance to report, I will be here to remind you that you ask us to sacrifice our sanity to fight outdated structures that were designed to keep us down. […] 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.” (p. 288)
Writing about the topic of assault is never easy but I can imagine it being especially challenging if you’re telling your own story. Coming forward with your real name, openly sharing your vulnerabilities and some of the worst moments of your life. This is what I admire the author for immensely – for taking this difficult step in order to tell the story from her point of view and in the process helping out countless other victims.
“I write to show how victims are treated at this moment in time, to record the temperature of our culture. This is a marker, and I hope that in twenty years this grueling aftermath of victimhood will feel foreign.” (p. 315)
What struck me the most with the author’s story was how lenient the punishment given to her aggressor was. You couldn’t help but wonder what kind of “positive racism” influenced the judge’s decision, him being a white, heterosexual male, who was successful in sports. In our system nowadays it is scary to think of what kind of a punishment would have been given to a Hispanic or a Black person in the same situation.
“What happens to those who start off with little to lose? Instead of a nineteen-year-old Stanford athlete, let’s imagine a Hispanic nineteen-year-old working in the kitchen of the fraternity commits the same crime. Does this story end differently?” (p. 282)
Most importantly of all, the issue of the every day harassment that women have to experience is approached. How it’s still always women that have to take all the precautions and how they are still blamed in the end if something bad happens to them. Living in a city like a Paris I have to experience this first hand way too often and it takes a heavy toll on your daily life when you’re constantly experiencing harassment in the streets.
“They [men] were not asked to adhere to the same rules, yet there were countless guidelines women had to follow: cover your drink, stick close to others, don’t wear short skirts. Their behavior was the constant, while we were the variable expected to change. When did it become our job to do all the preventing and managing?” (p. 50)
“It also seemed like he’d said, if they’re bothering you while walking, why are you still walking? It didn’t feel like a solution at all; they forced me to seal myself off in a car. I didn’t want to give up my sidewalks.” (p. 82)
“Women have been trained to notice micro-movements, to scan and anticipate all subsequent actions, constantly measuring how far threatening words are from realities. We are tasked with defending ourselves in every imaginable scenario, planning escape routes, walking with keys between knuckles, a natural instinct in our day-to-day routines.” (p. 279)
This is a book where I can confidently give out a full 5/5 ⭐ rating – it’s written in a beautiful and touching way, it’s honest and it’s vulnerable. An absolute suggestion from my side!
Edition: ISBN 978-0-241-42828-3