Content Warnings: Rape, Mental Illness
April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, and as a victim myself, I thought it would be good to recommend my favorite book on the subject: “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson.
Melinda’s first year of high school is going terribly. Because she called the cops at a party the summer before, she is a complete outcast, and her grades are suffering everywhere but in art. She knows what happened to her: she was raped by an older boy at that party and she called the cops out of fear. To make matters worse, he goes to her school. But due to shame and fear, she cannot say anything. She desperately wants to speak up about what happened. Will she find the strength?
This story follows Melinda through her first year of recovery from sexual assault in a raw and realistic way. It describes loneliness, anxiety, shame, and even weight gain due to depression. Due to the quick-witted and brisk writing, “Speak” is a quick read but a heavy one. But despite the gravity of the book’s nature, it never stops being entertaining. It reads not like a story, but like a conversation with a friend, or perhaps a look into their private journal.
I was a victim of sexual assault several times in my life, but a few were in high school, and one at a party. I remember feeling exactly like Melinda did: feeling as though it were my fault, wanting to hide, and being completely isolated from all my peers. However, this book did help me find some sort of catharsis while I was going through it. Due to the realistic nature of Anderson’s writing, it made me feel like I wasn’t alone.
I especially recommend this book to anyone who has been a victim of sexual assault. Melinda is a young teenager, but her struggle can happen to anyone at any age and her story holds a special weight, even for adults.
If you have been sexually assaulted on campus, the Title IX Office has great resources to help.