Friday, November 1, 2013

On Protecting Ani: POV in FAULT LINE

I've been thinking about this for a while now. Every time someone asks if I would consider writing a sequel to Fault Line from Ani's POV. Every time someone asks why I chose to write Ben's story instead of Ani's.

And the answer is both simple and deeply complicated.

The simple answer is this: I didn't want to write from a rape survivor's POV because that's been done and done very well. Speak, Rape Girl, Where the Stars Shine, The Mockingbirds, Faking Normal. These are all incredible books I've read about sexual violence told from a survivor's POV. And each of these books add different and important insights into the survivor experience. 

The complicated answer is this: It would hurt too much. 

The thing about being a survivor and working in anti-rape activism in the way that I do is that I spend most of every day in that POV. People share their terrible stories and demonstrate their incredible strength and these things become part of who I am. These stories fit into the mosaic of me and make me keep fighting. They build me up so that crappy rape apologists and victim-blamers matter less, because what many of us are trying to do to end rape matters so much more.

I think all writers collect stories to a certain extent. And because of who I am and what I do, I tend to collect certain types of stories more than others. This is something I'm deeply grateful for. There is nothing I'm prouder of than being a person that survivors can disclose to and know they are safe, they will be believed and understood. You have no idea how important that is. It is frequently what keeps survivors from disclosing in the first place, this fear that they will not be believed, or worse, will somehow be blamed for what happened to them. 

But hearing stories also leaves me exposed in a way. I've talked about vicarious trauma before. It is common in anyone who works longterm in the anti-sexual violence movement. It is hard not to take on these stories as your own, especially when you have the ability to speak out and fight while survivors frequently have not found their voice to do so. And I've actually done really well with vicarious trauma over the past fifteen years I've been involved in this cause because I have an amazing support network of friends and family who have lifted me up and held me when I most needed it. And I have learned to make these stories part of who I am without losing the rest of me.

However, every time I even consider writing Ani's story I find I cannot. I'm too close. It's too personal. These characters have become real to me because they're comprised of so many real moments I've witnessed or experienced in my life. Getting inside Ani's head would require me to open the box of every story I've ever heard, open the box of my own story, and the real truth is those stories are sacred to me. I don't want them put out in the public to be criticized and torn apart. I don't want Ani left unprotected in that way, I guess.

When I first trained as a rape victim advocate, one of the things we learned was that our biggest responsibility in the ER was to do everything possible to re-empower survivors. Give them as many choices as possible. Let them know they could say no to things that made them uncomfortable. Assure them that we would advocate for them if they didn't feel they could do it themselves. 

I sort of feel the same way about Ani. In my head, I want to give her the choice to share her story or not. Even more, I want the people who know her story to recognize it as a gift, not to start criticizing her for choices, blaming her for whatever.

This post has gotten a little dark and I don't mean for it to be. I mean for it to be an explanation more than anything else. And I continue to be grateful for all the conversations started by this book. I continue to be grateful for all my readers. I continue to be grateful for everyone who is fighting in this cause. You all humble me.


M.J. Fifield said...

I'm very glad you chose to protect Ani.

Anabellynn said...

I understand/agree with all your reasons for not writing Ani's POV, and I appreciate the way you wrote Fault Line. I'm sure it was very difficult to do. I wanted to add something else. I have read second books written from the POV of the other main character. And they were okay, but honestly, most of the time, I found it was really just reading the same first book all over again, even if it explained what went on in the head of the other character (*there are exceptions). I understand readers want to know MORE about characters they loved, I like that myself, but there are other ways to satisfy readers than rehashing the same plot. I think most authors have many stories in them, and I love to read their NEW stories!
Having said what is only my opinion, I'll add this: thank you for all you endure as an advocate for the vulnerable victims of sexual abuse.