As many of you know by now, sex positive discussions is intensely important to me. So many people have their sexual growth and understanding inhibited due to upbringing, religion, and worse, traumatic sexual experiences. Being closed away from one’s sexuality due to whatever reason stifles and inhibits personal, emotional growth and well being and can destroy otherwise healthy personal relationships.
Recently, when I discovered my pal, Jessi Gage, had launched her first ever holiday book, I reached out and asked if I could help her pimp it. I was thrilled when she mentioned that there was a sensitive topic of a sexual nature she’d wanted to address and thought my blog would be the perfect forum. When she gave me the specifics, I was honored. This subject is near and dear to so many hearts. (Don’t believe me? Check out my other pal, Bridget Blackwood’s post.)
Take it away, Jessi! (And please, guys, as always….share your stories, thoughts, and/or experiences because we’d love to hear from you!)
Thank you, Kitt, for hosting me today. I’m a huge fan of you as a person and as a blogger. You are one of my favorite advocates for women’s sexuality. Your voice and the voices of August McLaughlin and Ande Lyons are desperately needed and greatly appreciated by many.
I thought your blog would be a good place to confess my insecurity over a recent first for me. I’ve got a new release out, Cole in My Stocking. It’s my first holiday romance, and it’s the first time I’ve tackled sexual assault in a book. I’m not going to lie, I was nervous about this.
In a romance, you want conflict and tension, yes, but you don’t want to disturb the readers, at least I don’t. That’s not my thing as a writer. I like to leave readers with a serious case of the warm-fuzzies. If people put down my book with a happy sigh, that’s my idea of success. So I wasn’t sure how to handle it when my heroine, Mandy, insisted she had survived a very traumatic situation in her past, a situation in which all her control was taken away: a sexual assault.
Fortunately, Mandy assured me her trauma was well past. It doesn’t appear on the pages of Cole in My Stocking other than as brief flashes of memory that still haunt her. But Mandy needed to spend time in this book working through issues that resulted from her assault. And Cole needed to be the man to help her do it.
See, Mandy has not been able to have a physical relationship with anyone since her assault. She has PTSD. As a counselor, she knows this about herself, but clinical knowledge doesn’t necessarily translate into being able to overcome the emotional scars of her past.
Fortunately for Mandy, Cole is up to the challenge of helping her tackle her physical and psychological issues. He does it by loving her, showing her he is trustworthy, and most of all, through his unwavering patience with her physical limitations.
To get this dynamic right (I hope I got it right!), I consulted my beautiful and generous sister-in-law, Kate, who has a counseling degree and has a heart for helping people. She helped me shape Mandy’s memories and reactions and encouraged me not to hold back when naming the horror that happened to her: rape.
Mandy’s story has a happy ending—of course, since I will never write anything that doesn’t end happily. But it might be a painful read for a woman who has experienced anything like what Mandy experienced. Then again, it might be helpful. Early reviews are indicating that Mandy’s journey is touching and realistic.
Excerpt from a 5-star review by Becca Moree of Breathless Ink:
Learning about what sweet Mandy has been through was tough. It was emotional, and for anyone that has been in a situation where their control, their power, their self worth has been stripped from them…just know that this book can be extremely difficult to read. Mandy’s reactions to what happened and how she handles intimacy after were very realistic. I’m not sure what Jessi Gage did to write this type of story in such a believable manner, but what I can say is that I appreciate the way she wrote this story. It means a lot to me that she managed to write a sweet love story (which I will talk about in a bit) while fitting in details that may help people who have never dealt with assault understand. I felt that it was written in a way that shed light on the way victims of assault think. The way they deal with what others see as a simple situation.
Reviews like this certainly help me feel less nervous about Mandy’s story. I’m so glad I wrote it and I hope lots of people find some holiday hope and cheer in it. I want to leave you with some words from Kate and some resources on sexual assault. Here’s Kate:
Sexual assault is an almost scientific term for a vomit-inducing nightmare. Alas, we are forced to contend with the term, so let’s be clear on its definition. According to the Justice Department’s website, sexual assault is defined as “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient… forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape.”
Recent government-funded studies have brought to light some shocking statistics about sexual assault and rape specifically:
Nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped.
Only 16% of all rapes are reported to authorities.
35% of all sexual assaults are reported to authorities.
Teens aged 16-19 are 3.5 times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than the general population.
http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_executive_summary-a.pdf : 90% of rape victims know their rapist.
50% of victims are raped by their intimate partner.
There are a ton of implications in these stats, but I’ll highlight just a couple. What strikes me most about these stats is that rape is so common. We encounter women who have survived sexual assault every day. Eighteen percent of US women have gone through this. You are friends with rape victims. You are family of rape victims. Let that sink in for a minute.
Next, most rape is being done by guys we know. That is actually a pretty scary statistic. Think about it. Women are more likely to get raped by a man they know than by that ominous lurking predator in black, looming in the dark behind that bush. And to top it off, rapes are underreported. In other words, the bad guy is getting off way more often than not.
Sexual assault clearly affects our culture and us personally more than we realize, because it is happening all the time. I encourage you to ask questions and have conversations. Educate yourself on why and how sexual assault is so prevalent in our society. (I’ll give you a hint: It’s not because men are uncontrollable animals.)
Learn about victim blaming:
and ways you can help the women (and men) in your own life who need support after sexual assault.
Here are some resources for you or a loved one needing immediate help after sexual assault:
National directory of rape crisis centers: via RAINN website or call 1-800-656-4673
Online sexual assault support group: AfterSilence
Advice for loved ones of assault victims: RAINN website support
Thank you for reading! Please forward this post at will since you never know who might need the resources Kate shares above.
Thanks again, Kitt, for having me! It’s always a pleasure to blog with you!
For more information about Cole in My Stocking and Jessi Gage’s other books, visit her at:
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Cole Blurb and Buy Links
Mandy never planned to return to Newburgh, New Hampshire, the hometown that unfairly branded her a slut, but she has no choice. Her father has died, and she’ll be spending Christmas settling his affairs. She hopes to get in and out of town without attracting the looks of disgust that drove her away, but when a certain Oakley-wearing, Harley-riding cop starts hanging around, an old crush is revived and the rumor mill restarts with a vengeance.
Cole has always been attracted to Mandy, but he has never acted on it. Besides being sixteen years older than her, he was friends with her father. The rumors people in town spread about her were bad enough without an inappropriate relationship adding fuel to the fire. But when Mandy returns to Newburgh fully adult and looking more gorgeous than ever, he can’t keep his distance, especially when an old secret of her father’s surfaces and puts her in danger. He’ll stop at nothing to protect her, but convincing her to stay in Newburgh, with him, will take a Christmas miracle.
Reader Advisory: Contains references to a past sexual assault
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He cupped her chin and made her look at him, even if they couldn’t see each other in the dark. “What did he do after?”
“What do you mean?”
“When you freaked out. What did your boyfriend do after that?”
Tension straightened her shoulders. “What any decent guy would do. We stopped. He stopped. He was a perfect gentleman.”
“What? He was. I was a total spaz and he was cool about it.”
“He was cool about it?”
“What? What’s that superior tone for?” She was getting angry. He loved that about her. She’d stood up to Tooley a few days ago. She was standing up to him now. If she didn’t like something, she let you know about it. Now that was a characteristic he could believe she’d gotten from Gripper.
“You said you freaked like always when things get to a certain point, that you always blow it. You think you blew it with that guy because a single attempt at second base went poorly. I meant what happened afterwards? Was there a conversation? A second attempt after you had some time to process what happened? A third?”
“What guy would want to try again after something like that?”
“This guy would.”
Jessi Gage bio:
Jessi lives with her husband and children in the Seattle area. She’s a passionate reader of all genres of romance, especially anything involving the paranormal. Ghosts, demons, vampires, witches, weres, faeries…you name it, she’ll read it. As for writing, she’s sticking to Highlanders and contemporaries with a paranormal twist (for now). The last time she imagined a world without romance novels, her husband found her crouched in the corner, rocking.