Every year, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, when many of us participate in Take Back The Night speak-outs and marches to raise awareness about sexual violence in our communities. This year, the beloved young adult novelist Laurie Halse Anderson has thrown her support behind a fundraiser for the Rape Abuse And Incest National Network (RAINN), one of the main resources in our country for survivors of sexual violence.
Anderson is the author of Speak, a YA novel about 16-year-old Melinda Sordino, who is raped by a classmate at a house party the summer before 9th grade. Melinda calls 911, and the police break up the party, but she runs before she can tell anyone about the assault. When school begins, Melinda is shunned by her former friends for getting kids in trouble. Eventually, she stops talking almost entirely, grows isolated from her parents and tanks her schoolwork.
But Melinda is also mentored by a fellow outcast, an art teacher. She is able to name what happened to her and find her voice again. Published in 1999 and sadly still relevant in post-Steubenville, Speak explores the post-traumatic stress disorder that survivors suffer after an assault, but also the social ostracization of victims of sexual violence instead of perpetrators.
Throughout April, donations for RAINN will be matched dollar-for-dollar by Speak‘s publisher, Macmillan, in honor of the book’s 15th birthday. I called Laurie Halse Anderson this week and we spoke about the success of her best-selling book, teaching consent to teens, and recent controversial statements made by the president of RAINN about how “rape culture” doesn’t exist. Our conversation begins, after the jump!