August 2019 Book Review-NOT THAT BAD, by Roxanne Gay

TW: rape, sexual assault, rape culture.

Roxanne Gay is one of my writing heroes. She is vivid, unapologetic, and there is a power to her work that is visceral. Perhaps that is why I chose this book, as intense as it, for the month of activism.

As a quick caveat, Roxanne Gay has openly talked about her sexual assault. In the forward for this collection of essays, she speaks of it again. As I went through this book, I thought of my own experiences with harassment, stalking and sadly, rape (#MeToo). In this collection of essays, I came away with three questions.

Why is rape not taken seriously?

Why do people say the most devastating thing that can happen to you–the taking of your body without your consent–is your fault?

Why does it feel like to be woman is to be hunted?

I know this is heavy and heady topic, dearest ones. I know this is a topic is unsettling, and dark. But there has to be something said about this. There has to be something said about the open of crisis of facing women whom have been assaulted. You cannot say to anyone whom has been assaulted or raped that it’s ‘not that bad.’ Roxanne even speaks about that as well.

There are essays here ranging from cis women, transwomen, and gay men written from their own vantage point and experiences. With all the ugly attached. What makes this book so compelling is the fact it was, it is the recording of these experiences had by these victims of sexual assault and their process of healing and reconciling.

By admitting these terrible things happened, by revisiting this trauma for the sake of healing, equipping and confronting any system that insulates there is a strength in that solidarity. In the knowing that terrible, horrible things, don’t just happen to one person. Those same terrible horrible things, need more than just one person to overcome.

The work required to overcome this level of trauma cannot be minimized. And even then, sometimes it lingers. Viola Davis says it this way, “Memories have teeth.” When those teeth are bared, they sink into anything you try and accomplish. It cripples, stifles and suffocates! The people in helping professions are heroes–silent and protective.

I recommend this book for those in helping professions, rape crisis centers or any level of counseling. It is a necessary reference book, for those that see the pervasive problem of protecting abusers in a broken system. It is inside information to those whom are suffering in silence, and cannot find a way out. This book is a window. So, open it.

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