When I was in the early days of recovery from sexual violence, I read all day, every day. I read and read and read and read everything I could about Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS), rape culture, consent culture, predators, sociopaths, and especially survivor stories. I devoured the content on the Yes Means Yes blog.
This was five years before #MeToo went viral, but there were still plenty of stories out there. After all, another American is assaulted every 68 seconds. Just imagine if even 10% of survivors told their stories through memoir, the market would be flooded. Bookstore shelves wouldn’t have room for anything else—and that’s just a mere 10%.
Sexual violence is a larger pandemic than even Covid.
Statistics around those victimized are staggering. For example, 30% of survivors develop PTSD, 33% contemplate suicide, and 84% are victimized by someone they know. Perhaps even more disturbing are the statistics around justice for sexual violence.
Meaning, there really isn’t any.
Only 3.9% of rapists ever see a single day in jail. Only 8% will even be arrested. My assailants weren’t even questioned, so you can imagine survivors both need to be heard and to know they’re not alone. Just like I did.
The #MeToo movement has given these millions of survivors a voice, and several of them are writing essays and books about it. As I was doing research for which agents to query, I saw that many agents specifically said they didn’t want to see survivor memoirs, so I started to wonder if the market was already saturated. My memoir isn’t focused on sexual violence, but it is a part of my history and the main cause of my psychiatric injury, C-PTSD.
Then I found this article from Harper’s Bazaar from last May: “What Happens When #MeToo Memoirs Meet the Marketplace?” by Nicole Froio.
I loved it.
The self-narrative about sexual trauma has found a new marketability under the #MeToo umbrella.Froio, Harper’s Bazaar. May 2021.
These memoirs add to the growing cultural discussion of the prevalence of sexual violence. That enables parents to have these discussions with their daughters and sons. These stories encourage people to face the horrible truths around it and urge them to believe survivors. Other than teaching men1 not to rape, the most important thing is to believe survivors.
Froio points out that survivors are reading these memoirs, too. It not only battles the isolation, it shows them they’re not alone in this and that healing is possible. There is an end to the intense agony. Their life isn’t over. It’s possible to rebuild their identity. It’s possible to enjoy sex again.
These messages are of paramount importance in the aftermath of sexual assault, for this type of violence in particular shatters one’s soul. Add on that the survivor is often not believed, which causes secondary trauma. They feel very, very alone. The #MeToo movement has lessened this, as Twitter was ablaze with survivor stories in late 2016, to the point that some men started to finally get it.
In short, there is a big audience for the #MeToo-inspired memoir. There is a need for it, so I truly hope agents and publishers don’t silence survivors once again. Their voice needs to be heard.
2 Comments Add yours
During the early stages of my recovery I read a lot of books too…
Because no one talks about sexual violence in our daily lives, even if there is a lot of it, we urgently need to know that we are not alone, that our symptoms are normal, and that we can heal. You are right, books are a great help against isolation; and shame, if I may add. I really liked your post…
Thank you for reading and commenting, Laura. You’re right about the shame, too.
The staggering rate and profound effect of sexual violence needs to be accepted and addressed by society. Sadly, that’s not likely.
Thankfully for the internet, we survivors can find one another and see we are not alone.
May you find peace.