Sexual Assault Does Not Negate Happy-Ever-After

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!)

sexual assault

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.”

http://www.justice.gov/ovw/sexual-assault 

Recent government-funded studies have brought to light some shocking statistics about sexual assault and rape specifically:

https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/219181.pdf  :

Nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped.

Only 16% of all rapes are reported to authorities.

http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cv13.pdf

35% of all sexual assaults are reported to authorities.

http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/saycrle.pdf

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:

rape culture

consent:

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:

Resources:

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

Bandbacktogether Blog

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:

Website | Blog | Facebook Fan Page | Twitter | Goodreads | Newsletter

JessiGage_ColeInMyStocking_1400px

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 

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Google Play | All Romance | Goodreads

Highlight:

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.”

He scoffed.

“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

Jessi Gage

 

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.

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26 thoughts on “Sexual Assault Does Not Negate Happy-Ever-After

  1. Kristy K. James says:

    I will have to see if I can read this book. It sounds really interesting, but I don’t know. I actually dealt with molestation and sexual assault in the book I released last December (and am finishing that storyline in the book I’m working on now). Not graphic or anything, but it still brings back memories of the teenage cousin who molested my little sister and me when we were five and seven. It wasn’t horrible in that it wasn’t violent, and as an adult I realize the kid dealt with his own issues of having an alcoholic father and a mother who wouldn’t know the truth if it bit her on the ass. But the book I’m working on, plus finding out that he actually died from cancer this past summer, kind of bring all those memories back, so… Not sure my brain wants to deal with anything else on that subject right now, lol.

    But I hope it does really well. This is information a lot of people need. We treat it like it should be a secret. In fact, it wasn’t until about three years ago that my sister and I found out he’d gotten us both. It was the first time we’d ever talked about it. And we shouldn’t have had to be embarrassed – not at any point. But we were, and so are a whole lot of other victims. So good for you, Jessi!

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Kristy, when Jessi first mentioned taking this post here because of how openly we discuss these topics, I was honored. I knew that the brave, candid friends like you (thank you for sharing your story, and I’m so sorry you went through such terrible trauma) that I have would share their stories and understand the importance of such a sensitive piece. But it was more than that.

      I, too, had been sexually molested as a child. Thankfully, as you said, it was non violent and my virginity was left intact, but still. Experiences like this have the power to change you. I was fortunate enough to have always had a support system that sent a powerful & positive message surrounding both body image & sexuality.

      In some ways, I believe my experiences brought out my inner activist…especially when I discovered how many friends, both male and female, went through similar experiences and handled it with shame, self destruction, or by burying their heads in the sand. It’s hard to understand how we can go from victim to survivor. Many of us need help to get there. If opening lines of communication here help people realize in some small way that they’re not alone or where to go, great!

    • Jessi Gage says:

      Kristy, wow. I’m apaled by what happened to you. Thank you for sharing and for also sharing the emotional aspect of the aftermath. That, specifically, is what I wanted to shine a light on–well, what Mandy wanted to shine a light on.

      Kitt, It’s wonderful to be here. I’m going to be responding to comments all day, but I will say, it’s rough. I find my eyes wanting to skip ahead, past the turmoil. I’m making myself read every word, though. It’s awesome to have an open dialog. Thank you for providing this safe place for us!

  2. fangswandsfairy says:

    This was a good, thoughtful and heartfelt post. I appreciate that Jessi took SO much time to research and develop the theme. I have read writers who insist that rape did not occur because the woman wasn’t penetrated.
    I will definitely add this to my TBR.

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      It really was, Steph. And while legally “rape” may not occur due to lack of penetration, sexual assault certainly does…and rape isn’t just a physical thing. It is insidious…the mind, the emotions–they were still penetrated. So like you, I agree. Technically, criminally the word may be “wrong”, but it still fits and should be acknowledged.

      I love Jessi’s writing and know you won’t regret giving this book a shot. Thanks!

    • Jessi Gage says:

      Hi Steph! *waves*

      It was mostly my sister-in-law, Kate, who helped me with the research. She’s the best, and her heart for women shows.

      It was a tough book to write on a lot of levels. The heroine, Mandy, is primarily dealing with the unexpected death of her father, an alcoholic gunsmith, with which she had a difficult relationship. Mandy’s relationship with her father closely mirrors my relationship with my father, who passed away in 2006. The home Mandy grew up in and has to return to to close down her father’s estate is the exact home I grew up in. To write the book, I returned to a lot of childhood issues I had been happy to ignore…and then Mandy told me about her rape.

      The sexual assault issues from her past were supposed to be secondary, but they quickly became very important to Mandy’s developing relationship with Cole. I was very nervous about adding this in on top of the other issues Mandy was dealing with. It felt like too much to me as a writer, but the characters knew what they needed. I’m glad I listened to them.

  3. Professor Taboo says:

    First and foremost, I want to say that I do not condone any sort of non-consensual activities.

    As you know Kit, I am exposed constantly to this stigma in males around me because of my ‘alternative lifestyles’ particularly in BDSM, whether it is shared in a meet-up by a female former victim, or as is the case right now, when a dear long-time male friend of mine is escalating his verbal & physical abuse on his girlfriend, it is a dreadfully exhausting ordeal. But I am quick to note, this is not at all the case in the correctly appropriate and practiced lifestyles — as you allude, the discussion and education of the subject is not only required, but can be healing as well! The females I come across in BDSM that are former victims have SO MUCH to teach and share (and warn!) for newbies and those women curious of the ‘sorcery’ if you will, of the BDSM beautiful sides. When they share their real-life experience(s) what is always prevelant is how to acquire respect, dignity, and better proactive articulate communication of desires, fears, limits, and exploration in a lifestyle that is too often misunderstood. Now, why do I bring up this angle?

    The quick simple answer is that I understand the many complex behaviors and pathology involved in correct power-exchange and INcorrect power-exchange; consensual & understood versus non-consenual & illegal assault. From a male’s perspective, it is interesting that many of the non-consensual illegal cases involve the alpha-male personality — particularly the ones gone untreated throughout their youth. Consequently, they learn to justify it and perfect its practice despite the long-term damage to themselves, let alone their victims. The question I often ask these males when the subject arises is….”if the behavior is supposedly acceptable (in their minds), then WHY do you only practice it privately and not pubically like I do?” The answers I get are unbelievable sometimes — and their internal frailty really begins to bubble up.

    Anyway, there’s a glimpse into my world.

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Professor. I’m so glad you alluded to the very important differences between the BDSM lifestyle and assault. So often people who lack the understanding of the intricacies of the lifestyle assume that it’s one in the same, but we know differently.

      So much time and attention is given towards safety and boundary setting to protect all parties involved in a scene from precisely this issue. It’s also important to note that there are survivors of such victimizations that find the lifestyle enriching because it enables them to take back the power they felt they’ve lost (and not just from the dominant side of the paddle). In fact, my friend August, who is linked above, did a GirlBoner post (and I think possibly an interview on her radio show) in which she and a BDSM practitioner and therapist discussed how, for certain survivors, a “rape” or “non-consent” scene in a controlled environment where they get their chance to fight back can help bring closure and replace painful memories with positive ones in which they regain their power.

      It’s also very important to note that people in the BDSM lifestyle tend to be very sensitive to helping those who are hurting heal…in whatever way that works for them. No judgment.

      The mind is a complex thing….the capacity for healing is boundless, and everyone heals in different ways. What works for one may not be what works for someone else. We are all special & unique and should be respected and appreciated as such.

    • Jessi Gage says:

      Hi Professor. Nice to meet you 🙂

      I like that you emphasize the importance of communication in a BDSM relationship. One of my favorite BDSM writers is MQ Barber http://www.mqbarber.com/ because she emphasizes careful contracts and rules in her Neighborly Affections series. She shines a light on the emotional aspects of this kind of lifestyle in a way that other writers haven’t (and this lack, frankly, is what makes me rarely pick up BDSM books).

      Thanks for stopping by and for adding to the conversation!

      • Professor Taboo says:

        Hello Jessi. Mmm, thank you for the link. I will most certainly check her out. And you are welcome!

        One of my former girlfriends (and “bottom” is her proper term in the lifestyle) once told me while discussing the beautiful sorcery of our numerous scenes, was “I trust you with my life.” That statement really, really hit me. It was as profound as being a father to my two kids! Woah. But for a Top such as myself, it really is no different.

  4. soireadthisbooktoday says:

    Thank you for writing such a touching post. I never got over my own abuse – instead, I crawled inside myself and slammed all the doors, pulled down the storm shutters, and lived my life inside my own pain. It is a lonely, miserable existence, not ever allowing anyone to even hug you, much less get closer. I hope your writing helps others to free themselves from the nightmares!
    Very best, Leiah

  5. The Regular Guy NYC says:

    Very powerful and current topic Kitt, especially with all the news surrounding Bill Cosby nowadays. Sexual abuse is just so wrong on so many levels. It goes beyond the physical and has repercussions that last a lifetime.

  6. goddess1015 says:

    As an advocate for victims and survivors of domestic violence, I’m thrilled to see that by bringing up this topic, you are successfully getting people to talking about this subject, as it often remains a very violent and silent crime. As the Regular Guy NYC stated, sexual or any type of abuse is simply wrong on all levels, yet often swept under the carpet. The emotional trauma in many instances is devastating. Thank you so much for talking about this and encouraging others to offer valuable feedback without judgement which may help with the healing. Hugs…
    http://intheknowwithro.blogspot.com/2014/11/does-this-abuser-look-familiar.html
    http://intheknowwithro.blogspot.com/2014/02/nine-types-of-abusers-who-are-you.html

    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      This subject is near and dear to me, as well, so I was thrilled to be the vessel Jessi chose to use to discuss such a sensitive and timely topic. It’s so important to understand that people care & that people who have been victimized have support. It’s also huge to me that folks know that having been victimized doesn’t mean you have to be a victim forever, and that there is help and tools to help you take back your life as well as your sense of control….and that everyone heals differently.

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