Is Rape a Crime? is my current project, Flatiron Books (2020). The book is a memoir that looks at the crime of rape through a social justice lens. Rape is the least reported crime of all major felonies and the least successfully prosecuted; less than 3% of rapists ever spend a day in jail. There are estimates of close to 500,000 untested rape kits sitting in warehouses and police departments across the country, each representing a lost chance at justice. How do victims of rape attend to their own experience in an environment where society tells them in so many ways that what they went through matters to no one?
In July of 1984, the Boston Sexual Assault Unit was formed as a result of a series of break-ins and rapes that terrorized the city, of which mine was the last. The theory behind forming the unit was that police departments in neighboring jurisdictions were investigating the rapes with no coordination of evidence or communication that may have helped solve the crimes. That unit still exists today. Twenty years after the crimes occurred and I learned about the hundreds of thousands of rape kits languishing in cities across the country, I got curious about my case and began looking into what had happened and why I never heard from the police again after one short interview.
This memoir tells that story.
This book is, in part, about how silence, neglect and denial of the seriousness of rape on a local and national level impacts victims — sometimes as much, or more, than the crimes themselves. My greatest hope in writing this memoir is that survivors will feel seen and their experiences validated. Every day, I think about what it means to have someone leading our country who admitted sexually assaulting women, grabbing them with impunity because “he is a celebrity and they don’t mind.” I know how I feel that over sixty million people voted for him in spite of this reality, and people’s initial outrage at his admitted behavior has faded behind so many other pressing worries about this administration. But for rape survivors, it has been a real blow. Now more than ever, we need voices telling this story – the horror of unimaginable violence exacerbated by invisibility, minimization and justice delayed and denied.