1. WanderingStar
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    WanderingStar Member

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    Sexual Assault Scenes

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by WanderingStar, Nov 25, 2009.

    I've searched for information on sex scenes and abuse etc. Now that I understand more about depicting these scenarios I have a question in regards to the first scene being that of a sexual assault.

    Since the mc is obviously new to the reader at this point will they feel completely detached from the scene? It's meant to trigger emotions but I'm concerned it will not achieve that since she is still a stranger to them.

    Are there any thoughts on this? Sorry if I posted in the wrong section, I'm still learning my way around here.
     
  2. InkDream
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    InkDream Senior Member

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    I doubt it. Especially if it's written in first person. Make the reader uncomfortable, let them see how violated or conflicted the character feels, show us their thought process. The psychology of an assault victim is interesting so try to really delve into the conflicting emotions and thoughts attached to the scenario.
     
  3. Irish87
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    Irish87 Contributing Member

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    This is just my opinion and certainly others will disagree vehemently, but I don't like watching, reading, or experiencing uncomfortable things. It feels... uncomfortable. Then again, I don't really think you can write a scene about sexual assault and not have it uncomfortable.

    I've always thought of sexual assault, especially if you consider the age of the victim or the trauma caused by it, as little less than murder. I know, the person is not dead, but something so horrific like that leaves a scar that just cannot go away. You can cover it, you can even cure the wound, but it'll always be there. So if I were to describe such a scene I would personally invoke the same emotions and the same rhetoric when someone in my story dies. That, however, was not your question... so I should probably stop rambling.

    I think a reader becomes detached from a character when they become bored with him or when the character becomes insignificant. If nothing else you're a far better writer than I am. I don't think I'm mature enough to tackle something like this. I hope it goes well. Best of luck.
     
  4. WanderingStar
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    WanderingStar Member

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    Thanks for the responses!

    It is a difficult thing to portray properly, can become awkward if it doesn't appear realistic. I've had it from the POV of a child and an adult woman in the same novel, from the child's POV it was much easier to write. With the adult MC its giving me a bit of trouble, I keep feeling like something is missing, or that I am not capturing it the correct way. I thought maybe it was because the reader doesn't know who she is yet, but its more the fact that its just a hard thing to get across accurately.

    I agree with you Irish, personally I feel that sexual predators ought to be murdered. Its the premise of my book actually. It should feel uncomfortable, that probably isn't going to be as hard to achieve as 'not feeling unrealistic/forced' .

    Thanks for the responses, much appreciated.
     
  5. Marshmallow
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    Marshmallow Member

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    I had a rape scene in one of my short stories, and people tell me they are really uncomfortable reading it. =D

    Makes me so proud.

    Rape and sexual assault are one of those things that just don't need formal introduction. Think of the opening scene in A Time to Kill....yeah, completely sympathy inducing, yet you don't even know Tanya's name at that point.

    Just go for it, man. ;)
     
  6. gabs1515
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    gabs1515 New Member

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    I don't think anyone enjoys reading or for that matter writing about it, but that's the point isn't it? To breach people's comfort zones. What does need to happen is some kind of satisfaction afterwards to make the scene worth it. Like The Last House on the Left, there was that awful rape scene...and then we got to see the sweet revenge afterwards. It helped put closure on the whole thing.

    But anyway, in regards to your question WS - I don't think throwing it in right up front will make it feel any less traumatic then it would any other time. It all really depends on where the story goes from there. Will there be flashbacks later on leading up to that moment, so we as readers see how innocent she was and now full well whats about to happen and feel even worse for her, or will the story just progress from that moment on?
     
  7. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    I don't know that I'd use that scene as the opening. You could try it that way, do some test readings of the scene and see what the response to it is. And you can try it as a flash back scene either later in the first chapter or the next chapter, after your character has been introduced to the reader and you've put the reader on her side. It might work better as a flashback, and give more reason why this character might be psychologically messed up.
     
  8. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's not "murder" (unlawful killing of another)...it's a very deserved execution (lawful killing). And I agree...sexual predators should be put to death.

    As far as opening your story with a rape scene, you have to be an excellent writer to pull it off. Many people will stop reading unless you are able to "help" them get through the scene. Without reader empathy, the scene is simply pornographic voyeurism. On the other hand, if you appeal to the reader's empathy (or sympathy if the reader has been raped or sexually abused themselves), then the reader will connect with the character and continue with the story, despite the discomfort. How do you do that?

    Writer tools, like internal dialog, can provide readers with anticipation of retribution or insight into the dissociation that some victims use to block out their emotions. For example, during the rape, she could fight back and notice things about the rapist . . . a tattoo, speech pattern, missing tooth or she could mark him with a scratch across his eyes, etc . . . things that will help her identify the person in then future. Or she could become delirious with a dissociative reaction illustrated by her thoughts . . . mentally drift away from the rape to some wonderful memory like playing dress up with a sister as a child. In this kind of approach, the reader would "witness" the brutality of the assault through the narrative and assailant's threats while seeing inside the victim's mind where she alternates between being terrified or in pain and then drifting away into the sanctuary of her dissociative memory-dream.

    The point is there are many ways to build the scene in such a way as to "help" the reader develop empathy and connection with the story. Remember, most readers will be frustrated that they cannot reach out to help such a victim, so as a writer, you must supply the reader with a reason to continue with the story. That reason would be to see justice later in the book. What is "justice"? That can take many forms. For example, there are the obvious things like killing the bad guy, putting him in jail or "neutering" him. But, "justice" can also be something generalized like starting a television show called "America's Most Wanted" or becoming a lawyer and specializing in prosecuting sex crimes. She could even become a cop/detective specializing in sex crimes. There are many other ways your "victim" can provide the reader with a sense of "justice" and a reason to keep reading the story. But, it all starts with snagging reader empathy in that opening scene. Good luck.
     
  9. Gigi_GNR
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    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

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    I agree with what's already been said here--you need to be a very good writer to pull this kind of scene off. NaCl's idea of floating away to think of anything but what's going on in the present is a good idea. The book "The Lovely Bones" uses that approach. If you also want to capture the horror of the scene, you might want to research other books on the subject. One of the ones that's a must is "Lucky" by Alice Sebold, because it was written from her own personal experience.
     
  10. WanderingStar
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    WanderingStar Member

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    Thanks, the advice here is great. I went for a different approach in the end- I realized the story wasn't connecting to the content because I was hoping for a more raw in your face approach, and the setting was just too ordinary. It finally clicked and now I've been able to write out a much more captivating and intense first few chapters.

    I'm going a different angle but still using a sexual abuse scene as the open.
     
  11. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Capital punishment is murder pure and simple." - Nicholas Berdyaev

    "We are not so mad as to think that we shall create a world in which murder will not occur. We are fighting for a world in which murder will no longer be legal." - Albert Camus

    "Society has erected the gallows at the end of the lane instead of guideposts and direction boards at the beginning." - Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

    To solve a crime holistically, one would need to solve the entire society it occurred in - paraphrasing Alan Moore.

    If I read a book where I felt that the author carried a genuine hatred and prejudice towards one of the major characters and that the work was a thinly veiled piece of self-serving propaganda, then I'd toss it on the nearest fire. I think it's our noblest duty as writers to portray the human condition with all it's facets intact, and should rather seek to understand those who have stepped wrong rather than to simply persecute them. Hate doesn't cure hate and it certainly makes no man wiser.

    The sexual criminal lacks a moral filter for one of his most primal urges, but so do you when you desire him murdered.

    But then again, writing a book that explores the tragically skewed mind of a sexual criminal, to try and understand him, is doubtfully a challenge you'd be up for. So writing one where the Evil Guy is righteously and most lawfully slain in a happy ending is probably better. And in the end the reader will have learned that he should "Do no bad, for we shall do worse onto you."
     
  12. Goldie
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    I really like all of the advice given. As someone who has undergone sexual assault, I don't know if I could bring myself to read it. It's difficult to put yourself in a 'happy place' when something that like that is going on. But I was different from the majority of victims and told someone about it. That landed the attacker in jail for a Very Long Time.

    When dealing with sexual assault scenes, don't be too "safe". Don't start thinking if people will be offended or hate it. They will be offended and they will hate it. A lot of the times, that will also keep them reading to see what happens to the creep. Was there a reason behind the assault? Was the attacker also assaulted at one time? Was he doing it to keep someone else alive (extreme example)?

    I don't know if I could write a scene like that. I'm sure I could emote the utter helplessness. The way your voice just goes away. Your mouth is open but you just can't scream. Even if the attacker is slight, it's suddenly like they weigh too much for a mortal person. It feels like the attacker has more than just one set of hands.

    I'd like to see your MC tell someone about it. Maybe that person will blame him or her for it (the way s/he dresses or acts can be provocative in some way, flirtatious). But I will, more often than not, put the book down when the victim keeps it to him/herself. My sister kept it to herself and that pissed me off so bad. That's not to say that everyone would and I'm only one person. But that's what I'd like to see.
     
  13. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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    I'm in the same position - my second novel opens with a girl being sexually assaulted by her stepfather. I'm currently using just one short paragraph to set up her character (basically, what she is doing immediately before the assault) before he comes back drunk. I did originally dive straight in with the assault but wanted it to have a little more context.

    I'm adding to my difficulties, because I want my book to be readable by 11+ year-olds (the same age as the MC) but without pulling punches. It seems a tight balance to make it "acceptable" to this age group while being true to the story.
     
  14. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can't see how there's a market for sexual assault themed books for 11 year olds. Really. It strikes me as absurd.
     
  15. WanderingStar
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    WanderingStar Member

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    That's fine, but I have no reason to censor my personal feelings just so you don't have to feel like I have an agenda.

    I do have an agenda and I won't keep my mouth shut just because you don't like it. Your opinion isn't the only one of value. I will look past many people's flaws, but you know what, someone that sticks his penis in a 5 year old doesn't deserve any sympathy from me.

    By the way, society already gives these people second chances. Guess what, they repeat the offense. But you're right, lets do it your way and give them a chance to 'change'. They can be reformed and they are minuderstood creatures who deserve compassion and to be treated the same as any other criminal. Their minds are 'tragically skewed'- how dare someone form their own opinon and look down on that.

    Since the way we're doing things now doesn't work I'm offering an alternative, that I know won't ever happen- because too many people think 'murdering' someone who commits an act like that defeats the purpose.

    I have personal experience speaking to men who want to rape and molest children and they only care about one thing: getting off. Yeah they cry, yeah they feel guilty, yeah they don't understand how they got that way, or why their minds are so screwed up- does it stop them?

    But if you want to keep them around, since you know, they contribute so much to society that's your choice. My choice is to slice and dice them.
     
  16. WanderingStar
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    WanderingStar Member

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    The reason there is a market is because many 11 year olds are being sexually assaulted and that's the reality.
     
  17. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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    That's an answer to my post? It's not a "sexual assault themed book" - however that's part of my MC's background and part of her story is escaping from that (she runs away from home) and beginning to get over it.

    I'm trying to write the assault scene itself so it's clear to those that know (i.e. older readers or people who know the situation) what's happening and has happened in the past, while those who are more innocent who don't know the signs won't have anything too explicit shoved in their face...
     
  18. Paki-Writing
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    Paki-Writing Member

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    I feel the same way. It's too much to read the details of that. If a book has that, I'm out.
     
  19. Irish87
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    Irish87 Contributing Member

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    Unfortunately I have to agree with this. I wish I could say it's all one big lie and there are no children being hurt like this, but it seems to be something that persists no matter how much we evolve socially. This topic is just as much of a genre as memoirs about murder, bigotry, war, genocide, etc, etc, are. Yes, I realize those are not fiction. Nevertheless, there are books regarding all of those hard subjects that are fiction.
     
  20. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's a flaw in our society when mentally ill people are treated as if they were bankrobbers. Of course a couple of years behind bars doesn't cure anything. So the only alternative is to kill them? That's the kind of square-headed thinking that humanity has tried to claw itself out of for millenia. Well, the more enlightened part of humanity. Of course what the offender has done is terribly sick -- he's a sick person.

    You know, you're not the first person who thought that mentally ill people should be executed for their lack of contribution to society.

    ------------

    The term "euthanasia" (literally, "good death") usually refers to the inducement of a painless death for a chronically or terminally ill individual who would otherwise suffer. In the Nazi context, however, "euthanasia" represented a euphemistic term for a clandestine murder program which targeted for systematic killing mentally and physically disabled patients living in institutional settings in Germany and German-annexed territories.

    The so-called "Euthanasia" program was National Socialist Germany's first program of mass murder, predating the genocide of European Jewry, which we call the Holocaust, by approximately two years. The effort represented one of many radical eugenic measures which aimed to restore the racial "integrity" of the German nation. It endeavored to eliminate what eugenicists and their supporters considered "life unworthy of life": those individuals who--they believed--because of severe psychiatric, neurological, or physical disabilities represented at once a genetic and a financial burden upon German society and the state.

    -US Holocaust Memorial Museum

    I marvel at the irony.
     
  21. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well now, aren't you just a paragon of virtue and moral superiority. Problem is, the quotes you provided against capital punishment mean nothing. Any simpleton with Google can produce volumes of pro or anti capital punishment quotes from reputable sources.

    That said, you are welcome to your opinion. I happen to believe that some people are dangerous to society and should be removed, permanently. We humanely terminate the lives of dangerous dogs. Why not apply the same "humanity" for violent criminals? And there is NO moral equivalence between capital punishment and the Holocaust. Such a comparison is sick, as is your statement about killing people simply for being "mentally ill". In the US, we have legal protection for the mentally ill who commit a crime. It's called "Innocent by reason of insanity." These people are placed in locked mental health facilities, sometimes for life...mass murder Charles Manson for example. The vast majority of rapists KNOW right from wrong. Kill em!

    Getting back to the OP's proposed story, it unfortunately reflects reality in society. If well written, it could provide insight and inspiration, especially for those who may have suffered sexual assault in the past and are still wrestling with the emotional baggage. And, if the story includes retribution...perhaps harming or killing the rapist...a lot of people will feel that justice has been served. By the way, I have personal experience with this scenario. Fortunately for the perp, the police got him before I did.
     
  22. LeeLee
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    LeeLee New Member

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    I think we've gotten a bit off topic. It's about sexual assault not capital punishment. Although I do understand how it does kind of go with the topic b/c people were talking about capital punishment for those who've sexually assaulted others. But basically, we're talking about sexual assault in a story and it seems to be an iffy topic. I know when I read about a character and they are being sexually assaulted it makes me uncomfortable but that's how your supposed to feel. It also makes me angry and I think that the act itself gives you sympathy for that character right away. I do agree too that it's even more annoying when that person does nothing about it. That's my own personal opinion. For some it doesn't bother them, for others it does. I don't think that all people who have been sexually assaulted don't want to read it, that's not true, but it will have a different effect on them then it will on a person who hasn't had that bad experience.

    It's also an iffy topic when it comes to younger readers. But like others have said, it's still reality and I think it's all in how you write it down. Whether the reader is a younger reader, young adult or adult I think being very explicit is not the way to go, but I don't think saying "he followed her into the almost empty carport and raped her" works either. I think it's not as much the act as it is showing us how your character feels by the act. I've read a lot of VC Andrews series and I always thought her books were supposed to be young adult reading. Like for teenagers, high school kids. I'm still not sure, but she had a lot of sexual assault in her stories. It seems like every one I've read has a female character being raped or molested. I think it's all in the way you write it, like they've already said. Some can pull it off and others can't.

    Good luck!
     
  23. Phantasmal Reality
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    Phantasmal Reality Contributing Member

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    I'm surprised a moderator hasn't issued a warning yet. You are all free to debate capital punishment in The Lounge; this thread really isn't the place.

    Anyway, on to the topic. I don't think you'll have any problem getting people to sympathize with your MC if she's getting sexually assaulted at a tender age. There are just some things that are so powerful, so emotionally shocking, that you almost have to sympathize with the character. This is one of those things. You're walking a fine line though. While you're almost guaranteed reader sympathy, you're also guaranteed to make them uncomfortable. You'll probably lose some because of that, but only you can decide whether it's worth it or not. Sexual assault is an uncomfortable subject, and any attempts to somehow "water it down" to tolerable levels would probably loose you even more readers. (I mean, who wants to read something along the lines of "Oh, sexual abuse isn't that bad"?)

    As for there being a market for 11-year-old girls getting sexually abused, I don't know. I wouldn't expect to sell on that alone.

    Anyway, best of luck to you. :-D
     
  24. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Just keep the discussion respectful and on topic. That's all we ask.
     
  25. sidtvicious
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    sidtvicious Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would be careful about opening with the sexual assault, maybe consider building up to it after establishing the character in a chapter or so? I would just be hesitant in writing this graphic sexual assault scene and not having issues for the reader to sympathize with the character besides her young age. It could be a good hook, but I also see it posing the possibility of making a key scene (that is supposed to inhibit many emotions) wooden. These are just my thoughts though.

    -Sid
     

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