I’ve written about how much I enjoy “author events” at my local bookstore and why. Today I went to listen to a young co-author for two reasons: I needed something to do, I usually love these events and I’d never read about this local story so I had very limited knowledge about what happened…in my own “backyard.”
I’m a little ashamed to admit that my knee-jerk reaction was yet another book about another victim of sexual assault, an instant new ‘celebrity’ and a career is made. Me? Cynical much? Nah. It was a very superficial thought both literally and figuratively because a simultaneous thought was that I didn’t know the story and I was interested in finding out more…since it was to be in person right down the road from me – why not? Thirdly, it goes without saying, fodder for my blog. Hey, I’ve said I have a boring life, I need to get a story where I can.
It was a packed room as I knew it would be; I got there 1/2 hour before the ‘program’ started and there were already no seats left, the staff were unloading more chairs but without anywhere to put them where you could see the guest speakers. There were plenty of audience standing around the seated people, tucked in between bookcase aisles and behind columns and displays and the local police department were represented so I knew that the staff and speakers were prepared for possible disruption. All due to a young woman, still a teenager, speaking about her story in opposition to the nationwide public story that her attacker provided via “news” and media.
I’m not going to rehash the event, merely point out some things that caught my interest. First, I did not hear her story – not surprisingly, since there is a book for sale, despite the fact that usually authors do talk about the book, they just don’t reveal spoilers. This is a different kind of book though and I suspect, given the big, blue clue with a gun holster, that her side of the story might be considered inflammatory or ‘inciteful’ in a public place so she stuck to awareness issues, speaking out, the lack of support for victims and victim blaming, which is a lot and necessary.
I had wondered how poised anyone talking about their (recent) assault could be at such an event not to mention a teenager so I was prepared for some uncomfortable moments. I had not thought/known that a NH representative was going to be part of the ‘panel’ nor that the co-author, an investigative journalist, Jen Abelson, was going to be present (although that wasn’t surprising) and that these two women would not only be moral support for Chessy but that they had their own stories to tell.
Chessy did an excellent job of holding her own, being articulate and passionate but diplomatic about the whole issue of sexism, sexual assault and her own story. The only time she really had to try to control the emotion in her voice was when she spoke of her family (two sisters and her parents) being victimized by (social) media even while she was supposed to be ‘anonymous.’ How, not surprisingly in our hideous culture with the vulture-in-office, they received death threats, how they were told that she and her younger sister were going to find out what “real rape” is when they “finish the job”, how her sister’s name was Googled when she went to apply for a job, how her counselor was denied a job (later) because she was associated with this case and because she “is trouble,” how her family had to relocate, how family “friends” were no longer friends and on and on. Basically, we still vilify victims and their families and their supporters and sympathize with sexual predators…unbelievable.
I confess that I did not buy the book but I will read it sometime. I had questions that I did not ask in the forum because I am making the presumption that the answers will be in the book and if not, after reading I can seek the answers then. I hope I’ve relayed the above information accurately, to the best of my memory, and maybe some readers will be moved/interested in checking out Chessy’s story themselves.
In the end:
If we see something, say something.
If we remain silent, we are guilty of perpetuating a climate of ignorance and victimizing.
If you are a victim of assault, physical, sexual, verbal or in anyway threatened or discriminated against, speak up: IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT. It will not get better if we don’t change how we handle it.
If we don’t all do what we can, when we can, how we can for all people, women and men, we are doing our country and culture a disservice at this time when we are at a tipping point. Now is the time.
~ 6:00 p.m. Sun. 3/18/18