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A book club to heal sexual assualt survivors

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Every 68 seconds, according to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), an individual is sexually assaulted in this nation. On average, 463,634 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault can be found each year in the United States. According to The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) and The No More Project, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience violence from their partners in their lifetimes; 1 in 5 women are survivors of rape; 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men have experienced sexual violence in their lives.

In acknowledgment of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Dawn Center Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center will host a Book Club discussion group devoted to this vital issue. The Sexual Assault Awareness Month Book Club will meet on Mondays at 6 pm from April 4 to May 23, at the Dawn Center outreach office, Bravera Health Medical Arts Complex, Suite 214 in Brooksville.

“April is recognized internationally as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Each year, Dawn Center of Hernando County has hosted a variety of awareness events and activities including Dash for Dawn Center 5K (a virtual 5K through the full month of April), Sexual Assault specific information on Facebook and Instagram, performances of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues and participation in #30DaysofSAAM social media campaigns,” said Dawn Center sexual assault advocate Leah Stanton. “This year we decided to host the book club as a new avenue. We wanted to take awareness one step further by creating a discussion with our community members about survivors’ experiences with trauma as well as their resiliency and healing process.”

The book featured will be “Know My Name” by Chanel Miller. This New York Times Bestseller holds a five-star rating at Amazon.Com and is a Goodreads Choice Award nominee. “Chanel Miller was first known to the public as ‘Emily Doe,’ the victim of Brock Turner. The assault case was dubbed by the media as the ‘Stanford swimmer case’ and continues to be recognized by the name and reputation of the perpetrator, rather than the victim,” said Stanton. “‘Know My Name’ is a memoir by Chanel as a reclaiming of her story, not just from the night of the assault, but of the following years during the trial. She has an eloquent author’s voice that masterfully portrays her journey from victim to survivor to activist.”

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Book club meetings will be conducted in person, with possible online participation options available at a later date. Stanton stated, “At this time, we are planning to host our introduction night in-person at Dawn Center’s Outreach Office on Monday, April 4th at 6:00 pm, with subsequent meetings each Monday until May 23rd. It will give our club a total of 8 weeks to cover a couple chapters each week in a guided discussion through the story. We have recently had interest from some folks to have the club hosted virtually on Zoom in order to make it more accessible, so that is an option that is pending once we have more attendees registered.” This is one book club that, in Stanton’s view, offers far more than a good read.

“Many survivors of rape and sexual assault face some form of victim-blaming from both peers and professionals. We often hear how they are questioned about their choices and reactions in ways like, ‘Did you say no?’, ‘What were you wearing?’, ‘Why didn’t you scream for help or fight them?’, ‘You know you shouldn’t have been intoxicated.’, ‘Why didn’t you leave the first time it happened.’, ‘Why didn’t you report this to the police?’ Victim blaming is not only emotionally detrimental to a survivor, but the message that it conveys is that victims are responsible for what happened to them, not the perpetrator who chose to forego another person’s right to consent and to violate their body. My biggest hope for this book club experience is that the readers will see from Chanel’s experience that we need to shift the responsibility for rape back to rapists. That as members of the community, whether we know it or not, are all interacting with survivors of sexual assault every day. And as members of the community, we have the opportunity to create a culture that uplifts and affirms survivors instead of marking them with the proverbial red letter,” Stanton said. Register for the Dawn Center’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month Book Club Registration by sending an email to [email protected] or call the Outreach Office at 352-592-1288 and ask for Leah in regards to the book club.

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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