Ex-Stanford University student Brock Turner was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault. Yet, he was sentenced to just six months in county jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, prompting outrage from people across the country. On June 3, the 23-year-old unnamed victim released the statement she read aloud to her attacker; it's a powerful letter that speaks volumes about the many, many ways America's legal system fails sexual assault victims.
This case paints a devastatingly clear picture of rape culture in America. I'm just one of many millions who are furious to learn of yet another mishandled sexual assault case. It is an on-going battle to educate the country about rape culture and sexual assault in a way that prioritizes the victim instead of the criminal. It's never been more important to teach ourselves, our children, and our peers how rape culture affects each and every one of us.
There's no better way to educate ourselves than with facts, evidence, stories — books. From memoirs that capture the harsh realities of dealing with sexual assault to fictional stories that reflect the pain and devastation of the crime, here are seven exceptional books about rape and rape culture that everyone needs to read:
1. Transforming a Rape Culture by Emilie Buchwald, Pamela R. Fletcher, and Martha Roth
Originally published in 1993 and updated in 2005, this book features groundbreaking essays that address rape, sexual assault, gender, and sexuality. The diverse contributors include activists, opinion leaders, theologians, policymakers, educators, and authors. It's an important text for all ages, and a book that emphasizes the eradication of rape culture as an issue of immediate importance.
2. The Way I Used To Be by Amber Smith
The Way I Used To Be tells the story of 14-year-old Eden, who is raped in her bedroom by her brother's best friend. Feeling threatened and afraid, Eden keeps her rape a secret — a decision made by many sexual assault victims in real life. This book depicts the challenges faced by many sexual assault victims, and it sheds lights on the dark reality of rape culture in modern day America.
3. All The Rage by Courtney Summers
This young adult novel is especially important in light of the Brock Turner decision. Romy Grey knows for a fact that the sheriff's son, Kellan Turner, isn't the golden boy everyone thinks he is. But when she comes forward with the truth that he raped her, she's shunned by her friends and the people of her town. When another girl associated with the Turners goes missing, Romy must decide whether or not she wants to fight to make herself heard... so that no other women get hurt by Kellan. This book is a devastating and emotional look at the painful reality sexual assault victims face each and every day — especially when the justice system chooses to see them — instead of the assaulter — as the problem.
4. Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
Hermione, a star cheerleader, is pregnant after being raped at a summer camp. In Exit, Pursued By A Bear, she gradually heals and begins to understand that the assault wasn't the beginning of her story... nor is it the end. This story shows how helpless Hermione feels when she's unable to remember what happened, when she's unable to recall being drugged, when she's unable to tell the police the details they need to know. Most importantly, this book shows how incredibly difficult it is to reclaim your body and your life after a sexual assault.
5. Lucky by Alice Seabold
Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones, details her rape at the age of 18 in her memoir, Lucky. Months after her case was placed in an "inactive" file, she spotted her rapist on the street. She called the police, and he was arrested. Sadly, that isn't the end of the story. It's a powerful, emotional, gripping read about surviving a devastating assault.
6. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Speak is one of the most controversial, most important novels about rape culture. Melinda has no friends; everyone abandoned her after she called the cops on an end-of-summer party last year. Nobody talks to her. Nobody listens to her. Nobody knows the truth about what happened: she was raped that night by an upperclassman who still attends her high school. This book changed the way I think about rape culture, and it's a must-read for children and young adults.
7. Jane Doe January by Emily Winslow
This striking new memoir begins in January 1992, when author Emily Winslow was raped by a stranger in her college apartment. But that's only the beginning of this story. When her rapist is arrested two decades later in NYC, she must cope with her assault and the legal proceedings that followed many years later.