There’s more to healing than finding the right book.
I write that as Dear Sister, an anthology about healing from sexual assault, comes out in five months. So many times over the past three years, the book was held together by a prayer. On the wings of something unnamed, I sent out the call for submission hoping for a great response from the world. The world did respond. On the wings of something unnamed, I sent thank yous and congratulations to the contributors whose pieces were accepted into the book while I sent gratitude and support to the writers whose pieces were not included in the manuscript. I asked for their understanding. I made mistakes along the way. On the wings of something unnamed, I sent out the book proposal to seven independent presses. Two replied with interest. One made an offer.
And now, on the wings of something unnamed, it is being carried back and forth in cyber world in the copy editing stages, layout, and design. At night, when I’m tired and wonder if the book will fly to the places it needs to fly, the wondering turns into worry. The worry turns in anxiety. The anxiety turns into cold stone walls of fear.
Although it is not yet released, I receive questions about the book. The most recent inquiry was concerned over how the book addresses accountability, community, justice, and perpetrators. I thought a lot about the questions the email raised. Like many others inquiring about the book, they want to know what kind of stand the book makes in regard to healing from sexual violence.
Does it advocate reporting? Well, there are two contributors who reference using the judicial system in the prosecution of their perpetrator. Two others outline the strengths and uncertainties of transformative justice. One of them explores disability justice. Another writer adamantly declares that survivors should bear no guilt in choosing NOT to report because it is not up to one survivor to “save” another person from being raped. They’re all truthful. No one is wrong.
Short answer: it depends on what you’re looking for and what is helpful in your own process of healing. The contributors are simply offering what was helpful to them in their experiences. Offering them in a collection doesn’t advocate ONE way. It advocates that there is a way to find healing, regardless of situation. It advocates hope.
How readers approach anthologies is critical to its function. I hope that readers find the anthology in the spirt of searching for hope, not for answers because when it comes to healing from rape, there is no one answer that will work for everyone. I didn’t seek out to tell one truth with Dear Sister, I sought to create a space for survivors to tell multiple stories with overlapping and contradicting truths. How one survivor found empowerment and peace through chosen celibacy is her story alone. Just like how one survivor shares her techniques for living and surviving as a sex worker. That is her story alone. The introduction touches on the critical role reproductive justice and abortion access played in her survival while another contributor writes from her experience as a child born from rape.
I cannot speak for the 50 contributors of this anthology, but I doubt any of them would say they have the absolutes or answers to healing from sexual violence. What they have is their own truth and they are generous and brave to share that truth with the world on a page. What this book offers is multiple truths. Multiple routes. It features a variety of ways survivors have gone on to live lives of joy, laughter, intimacy, empowerment, activism, bravery, and love.
I hope you join the movement to #BelieveSurvivors.