29 September 2015

Plenty – The Research and the Messages

Some recent comments posted about my novel warrant a response. “…I also don't believe any research was done into rape survivors and the blatant disregard for that aspect of this book when fashioning Camille and Jennifer is just disgusting…”

 To set the record straight, a close family member survived a rape, and I extensively researched the crime to support her efforts to heal. I stand-by my treatment of the subject and the reactions of the characters involved. People process trauma and shock differently - some women blame themselves for an error in judgment and some keep the secret locked away for years. Some feel dirty, some feel shame and some shower as if to erase the event and memories. Some women disassociate during the act as a means of survival. I know that it’s an event that can bleed the joy, the sense of safety, control and security from a woman’s life, even more reason to acquire defensive skills. Long term, depression, PTSD, sexually transmitted diseases and Disassociation can become part of a survivor’s daily existence. According to RAINN, Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 68% of sexual assaults are not reported to police. Even sadder, 98% of rapists will never spend a day in jail or prison.  Furthermore, RAINN reports that 4/5 of the assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.

In March of this year, The Huffington Post reported that pop star Madonna never reported her rape or pressed charges. “You’ve already been violated, she said. It’s just not worth it. It’s too much humiliation. In December, Lady Gaga revealed that she endured rape at the age of 19 by a man decades older. She didn't tell anyone for seven years. Given the highly publicized skepticism about and scandal surrounding Bill Cosby’s alleged actions, the tendency to submerge the trauma, hurt and rage prevails in order to soldier on. Given my close affiliation with this crime and the statistics, I remain resolute about my treatment of rape. I don’t view the subject lightly. I would call it enlightened and in no way cavalier. I’ll never forget the two questions Dr. Phil asked a survivor -“Did you want it?” and “Was it okay?” These two questions helped provide a lot of clarity and closure for my relative. 

Re: Joy, a 13-year-old gun and archery aficionado, her parents cultivated these skills at an early age to empower her and to safeguard her.  My husband said, “If you know a subject well enough to teach someone else, you really have a solid grasp of it.” And I believe he’s correct.  Joy not only teaches someone else, but she practices her skills at her home in a rural setting. She’s doesn’t practice surrounded by clowning friends but by herself. Parental concern not an issue because Joy rehabs animals injured by hunting. Her awareness about firearm destruction, danger and safety have been galvanized by her education and life experiences. In the South, many teens raised in rural and semi-rural areas learn about gun safety and shooting at an early age. Especially in farm and ranch settings, gun skills become an essential way to protect livestock from predators and rodent-eating cats from coyotes. Of course, a gun can be an invaluable tool to protect people, pets and livestock from poisonous snakes. My husband owned his first shotgun at 8 years old. Chris Kyle, aka American Sniper, also a native Texan, owned his first rifle at age eight. Target shooting, not specifically hunting, represents a recreational competitive activity for families. Without a doubt, for Joy and for other girls, I believe defensive skills are important, especially given the fact that 1 in 5 girls is the victim of sexual assault, per the National Center for Victims of Crime. Whether it’s mace, pepper spray, a bow and arrow or deadly force, females should have tools and know-how. As a native Texan, both born and raised, I stand by the storyline.

Re: policy and procedures of first responders, I talked at length with first responders about car accidents and the ensuing medical aftermath. I also interviewed Department of Public Safety about road rage.  Why? Because to begin to change attitudes and behaviors about road rage, the gory details must be revealed. Think about it. The evening news doesn’t report that the back seat of the SUV slammed into the front seat and crushed the child’s chest, and understandably so, out of respect for the families. My many questions for first responders centered on raising awareness, through medical details, about road rage to impart a sense of patience and tolerance when driving. Discussing standard first responders’ policy and procedures in the rural setting of Prosperity would be completely extraneous. Within Sheriff Gordon’s realm of influence, policy and procedures take on a sinister, obviously evil meaning, that’s the focus not what procedures should be.  By the way, a goggle search of Sheriff Hodge in Kentucky reveals that Sheriff Gordon’s actions may seem tame. I researched that too.

In closing, as I’ve mentioned in my advertising, my book isn’t about a na├»ve virginal young woman who allows a handsome wealthy sadist boyfriend to achieve sexual satisfaction by using her as a submissive in exchange for an over the top fantasy existence replete with cars, big homes and gifts. What smart, self-respecting, well-educated woman wouldn’t trade her body, free choice, peace of mind and dignity for financial gain, pain and oh yeah love? Right…  Of course, a legal contract has to be part of the mix. Eventually, the pain feels good, and a new car lessens the sting and makes for a coveted ride. The thought nauseates me as much as a news story about an ex-prostitute whose pimp would beat her up and have sex with her afterward.  Twisted, titillating and romantic, huh? I can only imagine what first or second generation feminists would think of the popularity of the Fifty Shades series and the trickle down effect on trafficked teens and battered women. That’s scary and horrifying, not a well-educated, trustworthy, semi-supervised, empathetic 13-year old aiming at a target with a bow in the back yard of her country home solo.

One of the most important messages in Plenty - a quote by M. Gandhi, “My life is my message.” I write books about women who rescue themselves and the men who love them. Plenty covers important topics like accident avoidance, surveillance tools, sex kitten training, road rage, tools for empowerment and tolerance.

By the way, to the same Fifty-loving critic who labeled my novel an “…epic fail”... I suggest you do some research, proof your writing and then reflect before indulging a knee jerk reaction. Everyone has an opinion, but a factual educated perspective commands more attention and respect. Oh, and by the way, I’m a she, not a he.