In the age of #MeToo, women have found their voice… and pen – or the keyboard.
I have met, spoken to and communicated with some incredible women who suffered sexual violence. Very few of them were able to find justice through the legal system, deepening their trauma. How could they heal and find closure?
These women went through journeys, from breakdowns to therapy, self discovery and battling demons. The demons weren’t just the perpetrators but family, friends and colleagues who would not believe them; bosses, lawyers, police, judges who let them down; therapists who dismissed their feelings; and their own inner demons.
These are ordinary women, who like the rest of us, have aspirations of living a normal life and achieving our dreams – yet through violence, struggled to reclaim those aspirations.
These women are inspiring for undergoing that painful journey and emerging as shining beacons to help others who have been violated.
I will share the books or videos of these women regularly on this post, so you too can take heart that you are not alone.
Book 2: Dark Chapter by Winnie M Li
A 15 year old Irish boy raped Winnie M Li in 2008 while she walking through a forrest park outside Belfast.
She wrote Dark Chapter as a way of telling her story, and even more bravely, as she also tells his. Dark Chapter is fiction, but is based on Winnie’s experience. There are two narrators: Vivian, a Chinese American, and Johnny, a 15 year old from a dysfunctional family living a semi-nomadic life in a caravan in Belfast with his absent father.
While the story is compelling, if you know Winnie’s life story, you will know what will happen and the inner part of you wants to scream, run!
That’s what makes this book so painful to read. Knowing that every word squeezed onto the page was breathed by Winnie. I couldn’t distance myself, dismissing this as just fiction. Instead, I felt her pain. Unfortunately I read the rape scene while on a late night long tube ride on the District Line – which meant I could not cry. I knew what was coming, but I could not put the book down.
Dark Chapter also shows how Vivian (or Winnie) coped after her rape – reporting to the police (I thought the Northern Irish police were brilliant), the lack of support from social services (back in London), her concerned friends and how she kept it from her conservative parents – all this will strike a chord with victims of sexual violence. What amazed me most was Winnie’s determination to tell Vivian’s rapist’s story – that takes deep compassion. I could imagine her friends reacting: Are you mad?!
Winnie is inspiring in how she worked through her pain and sought writing as a way to heal. She set up Clear Lines Festival to help people speak about sexual assault, instead of the old fashioned way of sweeping it under the carpet because it would upset others.
Dark Chapter was nominated for the Best First Novel Award in 2018. Winnie M Li is active on Twitter and posts regularly on sexual violence advocacy, as well as the joys of London living. It’s about time we met for coffee!
Book 1: Radically Me by Kathryn Anderson
Kathryn Anderson is a good friend. We met through Claire Zammit’s Feminine Power course. Kathryn struggled with depression and self esteem. Yet I saw an eloquent woman passionate about antiquities – she was a museum director when I first knew her. Over time she shared her story of sexual abuse and realised that this was far common that we realise. 1 in 5 children are sexually abused, and yet we hardly hear about it. Adult survivors mainly stay silent for fear of upsetting their families.
Imagine millions of adults living with that dark past, feeling that there is no way to heal. Realising this, Kathryn wrote Radically Me to share how she went through her own healing process to the joyful woman we know who was just yearning to emerge. Kathryn has a beautiful laugh – ok, you can’t hear it in the book – but you can sense that’s her true self as you read her words.
In Radically Me, Transforming Trauma to Create a Life You Love, Kathryn helps us heal with practical steps, focusing very much on self reflection. Her book is educational, explaining ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and how this can impact you as an adult, processing trauma, setting boundaries and reclaiming your gifts.
Each chapter is a healing process, ending with practical steps you can take. Knowing that she went through this process herself, lends authenticity. This isn’t a guide, Kathryn went through fire. I know this. I saw some of it myself.
If you have experienced sexual abuse or know someone who has, do get this book.
If you are among a group of women who are tired of workplace sexual harassment and would like to do something about it, form a Circle and use our Guide here: