On Friday evening, I headed to the bookstore and bought Daisy Whitney's new novel, The Mockingbirds. By 1AM, I had blazed through its pages and had breathlessly finished the book.
All I can is this: the book is powerful, honest, and just plain good. Even though I don't have kids, I plan to read this with my future daughter because the issue of rape is something that we need to talk about. Frighteningly, 1 out of every 6 American women will be a victim of sexual assault.
In the novel, high schooler Alex Patrick has too much to drink one night and wakes up in the morning next to a guy she barely knows. Even scarier, she slowly realizes that the guy had sex with her while she was passed out. Consumed by guilt, Alex wants to forget what has happened but her friends convince her that she has been date raped. They urge her to enlist the help of The Mockingbirds, a secret society at their private school that's dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow students.
When I finished the book, I had one thought coursing through my mind, "Teenagers need to read this. They need to read this right now." Why? Because when I was a teen, I always thought rapists lurked in dark alleyways and shadowy parking lots. They were older, sleazy guys with slicked-back hair and a leer on their lips. They looked scary and dangerous.
Thus, I could avoid them.
But the truth of the matter is that 73% rape victims know their assailants. It can be a friend or a neighbor or a relative or a boyfriend. In Alex's case, it was a student at her school--an athlete who shared a class with her. He wasn't old and scary looking. Instead, he played water polo. He didn't attack her in an alley or a parking garage. Instead, he took her to his dorm room after a party.
It scares me to realize that this sort of thing happens every day on campuses like Alex's school. And it scares me even more that victims often blame themselves for what has happened ("But I drank too much." "But I let him into my room.") Yet, I take comfort in knowing that there are supportive women (and men) out there like Alex's friends. Even though Alex put herself in a bad situation, her friends never let her take blame for the assault. They tell her it's never okay for a guy to sleep with a girl who is physically unable to give assent. They tell her that rape is rape is rape.
Man, it really terrifies me to become a mother one day...but at least I have a book like this on my side. Because of The Mockingbirds, I'm going to have some meaningful discussions with my kids.
Thank you, Daisy, for writing this.
*Statistics found here and here.