10.1 Avoiding Tropes About Rape
__________________________ She trembled, every muscle quaking. Shame welled up, and she covered her face with her hands. A tear escaped the corner of her eye. Oh, God, what’s wrong with me? I’m ruining everything.
When writing about rape, it was important to me to show a plausible reaction to such a traumatic experience. One common trope in romance novels is to use rape as plot point and then have the male hero “heal/fix” the female main character with one night of sexual passion. It is the stuff of fiction, and while I don’t judge what people read, it was not my goal to show such a story.
And it was a fine line to walk.
Some survivors of sexual assault, like Megan, experience symptoms of anxiety and PTSD when attempting sexual activity again. But some do not. Some never have sex again, either because of lack of desire or symptoms that are too strong. For some, it’s not an issue. I did not want Megan to walk away from such an experience completely unscathed, nor did I want readers to think that all rape survivors have lingering effects in that area and are somehow “broken.”
I also wanted Nathan to show how someone can support their partner if they are a survivor of sexual assault or rape:
“You’re certain you don’t want to go to the hospital?” he said. “Not even to talk to someone? It’s confidential.”
“I know the speech. I’m not going.”
“Whatever you want. You’re in control right now.”
“I can handle this myself. I don’t need you! I don’t want your help! I can manage on my own!” Her voice rose shrilly. “I don’t need anyone’s help! Just leave me alone and let me handle things!”
She gasped for breath, trembling.
“I’m listening,” Nathan said.
But Nathan is not a “Greek god” as Sam jokingly puts it. Nathan gets confused and angry, too, and those aspects are displayed as well:
‘Nathan felt helpless but suspected it was good for her to cry…He wanted to put his arm around her but didn’t know if he should, so he did nothing.’
Here’s a link to more information for partners of those who have experienced sexual trauma: https://www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk/.../RCS-003...
As the story continues, Megan notices Nathan’s support and how her own feelings for him have grown:
‘In spite of her troubles, he had been gentle and calm, just as he always was. His patience overwhelmed her, and she wanted to grow into the strong, confident woman he encouraged her to be. He brought out the best in her…She didn’t know how long she had been in love with him, but she wanted it to last forever.’
She loves him. Now to see what his feelings are for her…