I find myself very interested in books that deal with the non-fiction side of rape and sexual assault. I think most people understand why. My own journey has made me a lot more sensitive to the accounts of rape portrayed in fiction, and so I like reading non-fiction accounts that I can connect to. I mean, I seriously wept over Alice Sebold’s Lucky memoir. Talk about devastating and inspiring all at once. I’ve been putting off the review of After Silence for a while, not sure why, but it’s time I finally write it. (It’s also Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so that has a lot to do with waiting until April. You can make a donation to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) in honor of my birthday, which is April 14th, by clicking here.)
I found this to be a fascinating work. What I think is really interesting is that there are two very distinct aspects woven in to this book: First, there’s Raine’s own experience of her sexual assault. What happened, how it changed her, the aftermath. I read this on my nook and had a ton of pages bookmarked and annotated, but sadly, I sold my nook and started using my iPad as my ereader and don’t have any of the stuff I jotted down… I guess a benefit of real books. Anyhow. So many times as I was reading I couldn’t help but think, or even say out loud, “YES! That’s exactly how I felt. That’s so true. Preach it, sistah!” And I think that’s one of the most amazing things about what Raine wrote in After Silence. Rape is a crime of power, and in our rape-supportive society, we find tend to hold the victim responsible for the rape, which makes NO sense when you think about it. We rarely hold victims/survivors responsible for the crimes that are committed against them, but with rape — we do. Part of that is because no one talks about rape. Two things Venable wrote about talking about her own assault and the power of language touched me so I actually wrote them down. I share them here because I think they are really moving, true examples of why we have got to start talking about rape and sexual assault.
In giving language to my experience, I hope I can make rape less ‘unspeakable.’ I hope to dispel at least some part of the fear and shame that has made victims mute.
And here’s the second:
Words seemed to make it visible. But, speaking, even when it embarrassed me also slowly freed me from the shame I felt. The more I struggled to speak, the less power the rape, and its aftermath, seemed to have over me.
Words are powerful.
The other aspect of this book that I thought was really interesting was the sociological aspect of it. Not only does Venable share her own harrowing experience, but she also investigates the cultural impact of rape, how it’s viewed and what people are left to do with it after it happens. These two different areas are twisted together throughout each chapter, and it’s done well, but I will admit that the research parts are harder to get through and might not appeal to someone who’s simply looking to read an autobiographical account of someone’s rape. If you can tough it out, those, these pieces of sociology in action are really, really interesting, given what they show us about rape-supportive culture.
Overall, I highly recommend this to people who are interested in human behavior.