For the past 21 years, April has been Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This is a month to remember those who have been assaulted and allow them safe space to tell their stories. According to the United States Department of Justice, sexual assault is defined as "any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by Federal, tribal, to State law, including when the victim lacks the capacity to consent."
As a survivor who has not fully felt comfortable enough to tell my story publicly these books have helped me see how strong survivors are and that our stories are valid - even if we never share them. The rapists' names are never mentioned in my recaps as they do not deserve any more notoriety. Please note that all of these books will trigger those who have been assaulted or harmed by someone in a sexual manner. Please take care should you choose to read them.
These are some resources that can help survivors get the help they need:
National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE
At different times, three women are kidnapped in Cleveland, Ohio and years go by and no one ever hears a word from them…until May 16, 2013, when Amanda Berry realizes that their kidnapper has left the house and they may be able to escape. After breaking the door somewhat, she begins to scream for help. When she is free from the house she calls 911 where she tells them "Help me, I'm Amanda Berry…I've been kidnapped, and I've been missing for ten years." With this one phone call, the lives of 5 people are forever changed - Amanda Berry and her daughter, Gina De Jesus, and Michelle Knight are finally given their freedom and their captor and rapist are arrested.
This book details the ways in which Amanda Berry and Gina De Jesus were abducted, brought to their captor's home, and the horrors they endured there. It should be noted that Michelle Knight authored a book of her own and is not given much space in this book. Upon their release, Berry and De Jesus slowly move on with their lives and have careers in advocacy.
In 1991, Jaycee Dugard started off for school as usual and her stepfather watched her from their driveway. He watched in horror as a van drove up behind Jaycee and someone jumped out and grabbed her. He attempted to chase the van on a bike but was unsuccessful. Despite years of pleas by her mother, Jaycee remained missing.
In August 2009, a group of people enter the parole department in California and their behavior sticks out and catches people's eyes. Their actions led to an investigation and the discovery of a woman and two children living in tents in the backyard. This is where Jaycee and her children had been living for the previous eighteen years.
Jaycee details what happened from the moment she was kidnapped to when she finally regained her freedom. This is a sad tale of a child stolen from her mother, taken advantage of, and forced to grow up too soon. Dugard does a good job of telling her story as a precautionary tale and explaining what happened in the almost two decades she was gone.
Michelle Knight was the unknown victim of the Cleveland kidnappings - the one no one knew was missing because she had been removed from the missing person list fifteen months after disappearing. The one whose mother did not actively look for her and the one whose son was adopted out because they thought she had abandoned him.
She was also the first victim. The victim who dealt with the constant abuse of the kidnapper. The victim was forced to birth Amanda Berry's baby or die. Michelle Knight is the victim of a madman who decided that her life was worth so little that no one would miss her.
This story details Michelle's life before, during, and after the kidnappings and proves that she is no longer her captor's victim…she is the ultimate survivor who went to hell and back to outlive him.
Elizabeth Smart grew up in an affluent home in Salt Lake City, an ideal location to grow up when you are raised in the Mormon faith. To help those less fortunate around the, her parents hire drifters to help with small chores around their home. This would ultimately lead to the worst time of their lives.
In June 2002, Elizabeth Smart is taken at gunpoint from her childhood bedroom and forced to travel to the remote camp of a madman who believes he is a prophet and his wife who enables him. He takes Elizabeth as his second wife. Smart is on the receiving end of horrible atrocities that no child should ever have to face. For almost a year, she is forced to hide who she is under threat of harm to her family. Smart was rescued when she was noticed walking down the street with her captors and they are brought to a local police station where she advises them as to who she really is and she is reunited with her family.
Although, the writing is bordering on sophomoric, Elizabeth took the time to explain how she felt during and after her kidnapping. She is also very open about her relationship with God and how that helped her survive her ordeal and heal from her trauma.
(This is not the story of a victim but of a child who had to deal with her father's victimization of others)
In 2005, Kerri Rawson gets on a knock on her door that changes her life forever. An FBI agent is on the other side of the door and he tells her that her father has been arrested for multiple murders and that he is, in fact, the BTK serial killer. Throughout the story, Rawson attempts to rectify the loving father she knew growing up with the man who killed and tortured innocent people. While this story is heavy on her religious beliefs, it is not to be understated that this belief helped her deal with making her life moving forward make sense.
Emily Doe was taken to the ER where she slowly came to and had a rape kit administered. She began to piece together what had happened to her as news began to run of someone being arrested after being caught raping an unconscious woman…and realized the woman is her. When her rapist is sentenced, Emily reveals herself to be Stanford student Chanel Miller and her victim impact statement went viral. In this book, Chanel takes back her identity and her power.
A large group of gymnasts tells their story of abuse at the hands of someone they trusted - the team doctor. The girls describe how they were groomed and made to feel that what was happening to them was normal. Eventually, girls step forward and begin to report what is being done to them. Despite this, there is nothing being done to remove their rapist from their environment or to have him prosecuted.
The rapist is arrested in December 2016 when the FBI found over 37,000 images of children. At this point, over 60 women had made allegations against him. When he was convicted, the victims numbered in the hundreds. In January 2018, the rapist was confronted by numerous victims who then took back the power he stole from them.
This story allows the victims to tell their stories and make others aware of what happened to them and how those in charge allowed it to continue despite knowing what sort of man they were employing.