explainer

Here are 8 very important (and timely) books about sexual assault and harassment.

This post deals with sexual assault and sexual harassment and might be triggering for some readers. 

On Monday evening, child sexual assault victim-survivor Grace Tame was named Australian of the Year for 2021, awarded for her tireless advocacy for sexual assault survivors.

Tame was just 15 years old when she was groomed and abused by her high school maths teacher, who was later jailed for his crimes. She was silenced by a law in Tasmania that made it a crime for any journalist to name a sexual assault survivor, regardless of their consent. The law has since been overturned, thanks in part to Tame's advocacy work. 

Watch Grace Tame’s acceptance speech right here. Post continues after video. 


Video via ABC.

After winning Australian of the Year, Tame has pledged to spend the next year advocating for better education on assault, grooming and psychological manipulation by abusers.

"We've come a long way but there's still more work to do in a lot of areas," she said in her winning speech. "Child sexual abuse and cultures that enable it still exist.

"Just as the impacts of evil are borne by all of us, so too are solutions born of all of us."

If you're wanting to read more about the experiences of sexual assault (and the brilliant survivors behind them), here are eight books about just that. 

1. Know My Name by Chanel Miller.

'Know My Name' by Chanel Miller. Image: Booktopia.

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Chanel Miller was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner on the campus of Stanford University in 2015. One year later, she stunned the world when her victim-impact letter was published anonymously by Buzzfeed where it went instantly viral. 

This memoir, Know My Name, is about Chanel Miller reclaiming her identity and using her voice to share her story, her trauma and her resilience. Plus, Miller shines a light on how the court system is designed to protect perpetrators of sexual assault, instead of victim-survivors. 

2. Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee.

Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee. Image: Booktopia. 

Australian author Bri Lee examines just what it takes to accuse someone of sexual assault in the justice system. Told through the experience of taking her own case to court, the memoir untangles and processes her own deep trauma. 

As a former Judge's Associate for a Queensland District Court herself, Bri Lee provides a unique perspective on Australia's legal system and specifically examines how sex crime trials let down victims.  

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3. My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell.

My Dark Vanessa is a fiction novel about a woman, now in her thirties, who is reflecting on a forbidden relationship between herself, aged 15, and her highschool English teacher. This controversial novel unfolds in the wake of the #MeToo era. Vanessa finds herself re-evaluating if her teenage self really did willingly enter that romance. Confused by her own memories, she's struggling with whether she had any agency in what transpired, or was actually a victim of grooming and abuse.

4. Liar Laurie by Laurie Katz.

'Liar Laurie'. Image: Booktopia. 

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Liar Laurie tells of the author's own experience with sexual assault at college. Just three weeks in to living on campus, Katz was sexually assaulted in a dorm room. But when she tried to get help, she was dismissed. As she tried to get justice on her attacker, he filed his own case against her. 

5. She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey.

'She Said'. Image: Booktopia.

She Said is a non-fiction book by the two journalists who broke the story on the sexual abuse perpetrated by top Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in 2017, which helped ignite the #MeToo movement. 

The New York Times investigative journalists take the reader through their then-confidential conversations with actresses, assistants and everyone in between who was willing to share their story of Harvey Weinstein. Plus, it documents the lengths Weinstein went to get the story shut down, before it was published on October 5, 2017. 

6. No Matter Our Wreckage by Gemma Carey.

'No Matter Our Wreckage' by Gemma Carey. Image: Booktopia. 

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'No Matter Our Wreckage' explores the myriad facets of trauma, with a specific focus on the complexities of intergenerational trauma.

The memoir, written by Gemma Carey, reflects on her experience of being sexually assaulted by a man twice her age when she was 17-years-old, by a man her mother knew. Not only does she reflect on her past, but she also shares how she reclaimed her life and her future. 

7. Being Lolita by Alisson Wood.

'Being Lolita' by Alisson Wood. Image: Booktopia.

Being Lolita is a memoir that explains the abuse suffered by writer Allison Wood, who went on a traumatic journey from "student to lover and then victim" of her high school English teacher. 

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As years go by after the abusive relationship, Allison gains perspective on the extent of the manipulation she suffered, but also the power she has to use her words to tell her story.

8. I Choose Elena by Lucia Osborne-Crowley.

'I Choose Elena' by Lucia Osborne-Crowley. Image: Booktopia. 

I Choose Elena is a memoir by an Australian journalist, Lucia Osborne-Crowley, who was violently raped in Sydney one night. 

For ten years, Osborne-Crowley didn't tell a single person - she silently suffered from unbearable trauma. This memoir explores how to remain resilient and rediscover your own vulnerability in the wake of sexual abuse. 

Author Jessica Andrews said about Osborne-Crowley's writing, "This book is burrowed deep under my skin".

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home. 

You can also call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.

Feature image: Booktopia.


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