Why I Chose to Include Sexual Assault in My Novel
This post will discuss rape and sexual assault.
Rape is a serious topic. It isn’t funny, it isn’t sexy, it isn’t entertaining. It is a violation of another person on a level that is on its own. Often rape isn’t portrayed this way and, quite frankly, that pissed me off.
In movies the victim of rape is usually a woman. The moment is used as a phoenix moment. After she is raped, she realizes how strong she is. She takes hold of her life. The rape was necessary, we are told, for her to reach her full potential. When the victim is a man he is portrayed as weak. Often, he is gay or a minority. In this way we are told he deserved it because of how he is. If only he had been manlier he wouldn’t have been raped. In both situations we are told the rape was called for.
I had seen rape portrayed incorrectly in almost every depiction. Rape is painted as the victim’s fault. She asked for it, he deserved it. I wanted to give voice to a different scenario, one that is often ignored.
Men are raped. They make up about 10% of the cases. About 3% of males in the U.S. have been sexually assaulted or raped. I thought this was a group that was poorly represented. People acknowledge that they exist but it stops there. They aren’t really given a voice or recognition.
I knew I wanted to address this topic and I knew I didn’t want to glorify, or accidently justify, it in any way. I knew this meant the victim must be male, must be white, must be strong, and must be in a situation that the reader would be able to clearly see he did not deserve or allow what was happening to him in any way. For these reasons I came up with Trig. He is a Viking, a successful business man, a warrior, and a white male. During the assault he is drugged and still tries to fight off his attacker. There is no mistaking what is happening. Trig is being attacked.
To make sure I did not glorify the moment in any way. I do not go into any detail. The line simply reads “Trig was bent over a table. The guard was behind him. Raping him.”
To further illustrate my distaste for the act the rapist is immediately gutted. His intestines are ripped out while he is alive. He is called a rapist and later his death is referred to as “justified.” The act is framed as something unspeakable worthy of horrific repercussions. I hope that is what I did.
Because male victims are often ignored the effect the assault has on them is understudied and ignored. I believe such an assault would have dramatic effects on a man. This, again, is something I want to portray correctly. Often men cannot talk to other men about the incident because the other men don’t take them seriously. They are portrayed, and feel, less like a man for what happened. This happens to Trig. He tries to be overly masculine during a fight and nearly gets himself killed. The effects of assault are not dealt with in a day. Many victims don’t discuss the attack for decades.
I still have conflicted feelings about including the attack in my novel. It is not a comfortable topic. It shouldn’t be. But why I included the assault, in my opinion, outweighs my discomfort around writing it. These people deserve to be recognized as the victims they are. Rape isn’t sexual any more than hitting someone with a shovel is gardening.
If you wish to learn more please visit: https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence
If you are a victim of sexual violence please visit: https://www.rainn.org/national-resources-sexual-assault-survivors-and-their-loved-ones
A video essay on how sexual assault of males is often used as humor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uc6QxD2_yQw