Top 10 Books By Woman Sexual Assault Survivors That Will Comfort, Inspire & UpliftJun 14, 2021
Trigger Warning: This article contains references to sexual violence. If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732. For support in a time of crisis, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
I’ve been reading self-help books for over twelve years as part of my professional development as a Counsellor and for my own healing and the best books are always written by survivors. Even though our symptoms might differ between us, I’ve found that nothing makes us feel more seen, heard and supported than sharing space, time and stories of resilience with each other. The authors you see on this list, are extraordinary survivors who have chosen to reclaim their power. I’ve intentionally selected authors with diverse perspectives and experiences in the hope that one will call to you. Wherever this article finds you, I hope you find a safe place to rest and find love in the inspiring words of these incredible authors and their inspiring true stories of strength, courage and hope.
This true story is not for the faint-hearted, an emotional book that is beautifully written will have you reaching for the tissues from the start. In Lucky, a memoir long-hailed for its blistering honesty and wit, Alice Sebold reveals how her life was irrevocably changed when, as an eighteen-year-old college freshman, she was raped and beaten inside a tunnel near her campus. In this same tunnel, a girl had been raped and dismembered. By comparison, Alice was told by the police, that she was lucky.
Though Alice’s friends and family try their best to offer understanding and support, in the end it is Alice’s formidable spirit that resonates most in these pages. A book that makes you question society and its punishments for rape, it is a narrative both painful and inspiring, Alice Sebold shines a light on the true experience of violent trauma. Alice’s redemption turns out to be as hard-won as it is really contributing to her attacker’s capture and conviction. Controversially, I must add it has since been found that the man jailed for her attack has been released since evidence suggests he was wrongfully accused by police and sentenced for a crime he did not commit.
2. Brave by Rose McGowan
After surviving a childhood living amongst the Children of God Cult, Rose becomes a street kid and then almost accidentally is thrust into the world of Hollywood. In what Rose describes as the worst cult of all! Rose shares her experiences and exposes the misogynistic, sexism and hyper-sexualised attitudes and culture of men and women in Hollywood that promote and profit from the mental, physical and sexual abuse and rape of young women. Rose struggles for many years in the industry and in her relationships after being raped by Harvey Weinstein.
Rose bravely challenges the Hollywood community and ‘us’ as the consumers of a toxic culture, to do better. Rose asks us to start with our moral responsibility. To question the material we consume, to protect young women by speaking up, saying ‘enough’ to end the objectification of women that damages our value system and ultimately impacts on every woman’s sense of worth. As Rose describes, Hollywood taught her that her worth was based on the amount of semen a man could ejaculate over her appearance.
This book will help you question the narratives fed to us by rich white males that dominate and control the entertainment industry that shapes the views of our society; particularly perspectives that allow the disrespect and abuse of young women and silence survivors.
3. I WANT TO GO HOME by Renee Marie Simpson
I Want To Go Home is an inspiring true story based on journal entries about a brave young woman named Renee. In her early twenties, she pushes herself out of her comfort zone when she agrees to join a sailing expedition from Gibraltar to Thailand, with no experience. A health crisis, serious mechanical failures, the threat of pirates and a category five cyclone – everything begins to go terrifyingly wrong, triggering the deeply buried trauma of a sexual assault.
Renee quickly adapts to life at sea, beginning to reclaim the power that was stolen from her and break the silence. Those who dream of adventure and travel will enjoy every discovery in this story; exploring important factors around surviving sexual assault including mental health, victim status, boundaries, trust, self-worth, confidence, self-care, sexuality, bullying, substance abuse, friendship, family, intergenerational trauma, culture, racism, privilege and much more.
If you have an instinct to run and a longing to return to a place of safety, you will find this book a gentle, supportive and loving call to action reflecting on what ‘home’ really means.
4. Home Body by Rupi Kaur
Home Body is a collection of raw, honest conversations with oneself in the form of straightforward, minimalist poems that cut through her feelings of numbness and speak to the potential of the self to heal after sexual assault.
Home Body touches on four key stages: mind, heart, rest, and awake. Each stage represents a significant part of Rupi’s struggle. This structure is interesting as it depicts the process of trauma, development, growth, and eventually acceptance. These are inner battles that many survivors have had to deal with.
Rupi offers something unique in Home Body in that it is a collection of introspection self-help poetry that explores her ideas around current topical social issues like black lives matter, capitalism, immigration, feminism and mental health. In a society where so much is wrong, Rupi assures us that all salvation ultimately comes from ourselves. When we are open to the community, to each other and the potential to heal, there are no limits to what we, and our world, can be.
5. Petals of Rain by Rica Keenum
Petals of Rain is a coming-of-age story that explores the impact of sexual abuse, particularly our vulnerabilities in our relationships if we are starved of unconditional love as children.
The story follows a mother navigating motherhood and womanhood – an abuse survivor emerging and learning to speak, scream, sing to her own wounded heart and to finally understand what it takes to be whole after breaking to pieces. She marries a narcissistic and emotionally abusive man and has to come to terms with her decision, even as she continues to try to repair her broken family.
It’s a painful reminder that sexual abuse is more than a painful incident. It normalises the challenges we face as survivors learning to cope and heal our damaged emotions. The author’s message highlights that secrets make us sick, but points out that when we share our struggles, we can draw strength from the fact that we are not alone.
6. Unbroken by Madeleine Black
Unbroken offers hope to survivors that is well-written, honest, brave and compassionate. It shows the messy, complicated and long arduous journey of what healing after trauma looks like with all its fragile edges.
Madeleine does not hold back when she describes the details of what took place on the night she was gang-raped when she was thirteen and explores why she doesn’t report it. Madeleine does this with the intention to help end the stigma of shame and to encourage us to be disturbed by her experience because it takes place every day, somewhere, to someone else on this planet.
But after growing up with a burden no teenager should ever have to shoulder, Madeleine finds the heart to carry out the best revenge plan of all: leading a fulfilling and happy life. Which takes her on a path as she explores her choice to recover from her adversity through her exploration and discovery of forgiveness. It shows how it’s possible to live a great life after rape and thrive.
7. Nobody’s Victim by Carrie Goldberg
Nobody’s Victim is an eye-opening book about a hidden world most people don’t know exists where ruthless perpetrators lurk–one of stalking, blackmail, and sexual violence, online and off–and the incredible story of how one lawyer, determined to fight back, turned her own hell into a revolution.
Carrie shares true stories about the remarkable clients she meets who come to her unable to escape the clutches of these predators who harass women for years on end. They sniff out vulnerability; stripping down every ounce of self-worth they have left.
Carries teaches us that information is power, and awareness is key to living in a world where the legal system neglects to protect women from online harassment, stalking and sextortion, therefore, making this book a necessary read for surviving the online world.
Carrie talks about real cases and how she turns her clients into warriors as she fights back with the law to sue the big tech companies and systems for enabling this behaviour and the disgusting creatures that hide behind their computers systematically destroying lives. You can find Carrie’s support resources in the link in my bio.
8. Tell Me You’re Sorry, Daddy by Caryn Walker
Tell Me You’re Sorry Daddy is a true story of one man’s horrific campaign of abuse against his own daughter, which continued for more than seven years of her childhood, and the effects which continue to this day. Caryn tells the story of two little sisters, both abused by the man who should have been there to protect them.
This is the inspiring story of how one survived to fight for justice against all odds. It’s a story that inspires strength, courage and justice. Caryn highlights why it takes time for survivors to report; finally seeing her father in court, 32 years after the abuse began. Charged with 24 counts of abuse against her. As she awaited the verdict, she looked at the man who showed no remorse and robbed her of so much and realised her strength as a survivor.
Caryn knew that it was time for her to tell her full story – and that of her dead sister, Jennifer. Against all the odds, she fought. And she won. Her father is now serving a 16-year sentence in prison for his crimes against them.
9. Dear Sister: Letters From Survivors of Sexual Violence
Dear Sister highlights the lessons, memories, and vision of over forty artists, activists, mothers, writers, and students who share a common bond. This multi-generational, multi-ethnic collection of letters and essays is a moving journey into the hearts and minds of the survivors written directly to and for survivors.
Dear Sister goes far beyond traditional books about healing, which often use “experts” to explain the experience of survivors. Where other books about rape weave the voices of feminists and activists together and imagine what a world without violence might look like, Dear Sister describes the reality of what the world looks like through the eyes of a survivor. From a professor in the Midwest to a poet in Belgium, an escapee from a child prostitution ring, a survivor advocate in the Congo, and a sex worker in San Francisco, Dear Sister touches on issues of feminism, love, disability, gender, justice, identity, and spirituality.
It’s a project collated with love, offering insight and companionship to survivors in need of comfort and support during times of hardship, when you feel like you’re all alone and no one can possibly understand what you’re going through. A soft trustworthy hand to hold you in the dark.
10. Know My Name by Chanel Miller
Know My Name provides a clear example of how the justice system has been designed to benefit the patriarchy — white men in power and positions of privilege.
Chanel’s perpetrator was sentenced to just six months in county jail after he was found guilty of sexually assaulting her on Stanford’s campus. Chanel was known to the world as Emily Doe when she stunned millions with her victim impact statement that was posted on Buzzfeed, where it instantly went viral – viewed by eleven million people within four days, it was translated globally and read on the floor of Congress; it inspired changes in California law and the recall of the judge in the case.
Chanel reclaims her identity to tell her story of trauma, transcendence, and the power of words. It was the perfect case, in many ways – there were eyewitnesses, Turner ran away, and physical evidence was immediately secured. But her struggles with isolation and shame during the aftermath and the trial reveal the oppression victims face in even the best-case scenarios. Her story illuminates a culture biased to protect perpetrators, indicts a criminal justice system designed to fail the most vulnerable, and, ultimately, shines with the courage required to move through suffering and live a beautiful life.
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