1. TiaAmerica

    TiaAmerica New Member

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    How to correctly write my abused character?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by TiaAmerica, Aug 4, 2019.

    Well, so I'm writing a detective story and my main character (Lesya) was sexually abused as a child (when she was 9 years old) and in one point of the story she's raped again 16 years later. Which is the best reaction I could give her?
    Lesya tends to keep all to herself and had an alcohol problem for years, her whole family is totally out of contact (besides her step mother, who's really sweet but she doesn't tell her nothing about her problems), I don't know if this is important but she's also autistic.
    I want her in the character and the nearest to the reality and without be offensive or anything. How could I treat the subject?
     
  2. The Piper

    The Piper Senior Member

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    Can't offer much advice on this as I think mainly it's a gut-feeling kind of thing - everyone reacts differently to any given situation, so it depends entirely on your character and how you write her. If you want her to be a strong character, then make sure we know just how hard she's fighting to keep her feelings hidden - perhaps when she's alone, we find out what's really going on. When she's with anyone else, we can tell (if it's very well written) that everything she's saying is just a cover. If she's more vulnerable, then show this in how she reacts to the world. Paranoia, anxiety, etc - if your character is autistic too, then you'll really want to focus on how she pays attention to everything and everybody, and maybe there's a layer of fear in there that wouldn't usually be.

    Hope this helps. You can draw from experience - yours or others - but your character is an individual and will react in their own way, and only you as an author know exactly what that is. Good luck!
     
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  3. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Contributor Contributor

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    First and most important thing is respect to real victims of this kind of things.

    With respect I mean that there are areas were you can calculate your own benefit and position and this is not one of those.

    1. Do your research to the saturation point and over it.

    2. Don't use these things to ride any political, social, ideological... agendas. If you do, you are in the same ring with rapists - not caring about victims but your own agendas and needs.

    3. Talk with several peoples with that kind of wounds.

    4. Learn everything about CPTSD and PTSD.

    5. Don't write everything you could. But what ever you write... be honest.

    6. Go where the pain is. Go where the relief is.

    7. If you listen to people with abuse background, pay attention that you really listen. If you are listening your own thoughts then you can't listen - really listen - them.

    8. Write several published books before touching this topic. Part of respect is that you train yourself worthy to touch topic this hard and explosive. Life of the victims is not your training field. You train yourself so that you are good enough before you go to that field.

    These are my advices. If people with real personal experience of this topic overrule these, you should listen to them instead of me. But what ever you do, you should start with your own personal accountability of your deeds, not how to benefit, how to get published or how to make impact.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2019
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  4. AndieBoDandy

    AndieBoDandy Member

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    No two people will handle abuse the same way, so you have some leeway in how your character personally reacts and relates. Generally speaking abuse like this can be confusing, shameful, lead to deep issues of mistrust and self esteem (especially). As the person grows, these feelings can escalate especially through puberty. Personally speaking I can attest to all of the above. As an adult, I can tell you that if I were placed in a secondary situation of being abused again... I would (and have) fought back. I had to forgive the child that was abused... but came to the realization that as an adult, I would never allow it to happen again.
    If you want to talk further feel free to start a conversation... I'll do my best to answer any questions you have.
     
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  5. suddenly BANSHEES

    suddenly BANSHEES Senior Member

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    I've been through similar experiences, and I agree with all that's been said here.

    Definitely look into the symptoms of PTSD and C-PTSD, as that would play a huge role, and some of the symptoms are things that people wouldn't really expect. There are lots of resources online of people speaking about their own experiences with such things - and many for sexual assault survivors who are on the autism spectrum, as that is unfortunately a common occurrence.

    Another thing that hasn't been mentioned yet: A factor into how she copes with her initial abuse is how much support she received after the fact. Recovery is easier if she has family or trusted adults who are open, honest, and supportive of her after being assaulted, and try to reassure her that it wasn't her fault. However, if she was treated with shame or disgust, or blamed for the assault (which is also a very common thing), she'll most likely have internalized the issue and not been able to move passed it over the course of those 16 years.

    If you're worried about writing something offensive, just consider who your audience is. If you want your story to be read by others who have lived this experience, who can relate to this character on a more personal level, take care to not glorify the abuse itself. By which I mean, if you decide to depict the rapes in detail on the pages, if it reads more like an erotica novel than something horrible and unpleasant, you'd alienate those potential readers, and possibly draw in people with rape fetishes reading it as smut.

    It doesn't really sound like that's what you're going for, but it's something to consider. Who you want your audience to be is a good thing to keep in mind when dealing with subjects like this, in general.

    While I'd rather not go into detail about my own abuse history, it's very similar to what your character has gone through. I'm currently being treated for C-PTSD, and would be happy to help with any questions regarding that aspect, or growing up with trauma in general. Please don't hesitate to shoot me a message :D
     
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  6. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Contributor Contributor

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    While doing research among PTSD and C-PTSD it's good to remember that serious narcissistic abuse effects in very similar way as sexual abuse. If it happens inside family, it ruins decades of life. And there is that "it's victim's fault" element all the time.

    It's easier to understand PTSD and C-PTSD side by doing research among both these topics - sexual and narcissistic - abuse. The inner logic of those is very similar.

    Surviving and coping of autism spectrum victims might have something different.
     
  7. grayj0265

    grayj0265 Member

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    That is a very loaded question. Do it with the utmost respect for the victim of the story. That doesn't mean the victim doesn't have any faults. Do your research. Make sure you are not writing about someone else's experience (ie, someone you may have heard in the news, ect). Get advice (which this forum is good for) on what is proper and what isn't. When you get ready to post a rough draft on this fourm, maybe have someone else read it to make sure it is good.
     
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  8. RobinLC

    RobinLC Member

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    I have personal experience as well. All I'll say publically is that victims hide their pain well. Especially if they haven't turned their attacker into authorities. Feel free to PM and I'll talk about it.
     
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  9. Lawless

    Lawless Active Member

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    I would much rather worry about the danger of trivializing a horrible trauma by being too superficial and euphemistical than I would about the danger of making someone feel bad by telling things too realistically.

    Reading a genuine description of a rape victim's feelings is bound to hurt, unless the reader is a complete monster. I can see no way around it.

    My advice is to focus on getting as acquainted with the topic as you resonably can and making your story as genuine and believable as you can.
     
  10. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Contributor Contributor

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    Most sane people don't want or can't go that deep to horrors voluntarily.

    We protect ourselves with keeping distance to things which can hurt us. Too realistic description about sexual or narcissistic abuse can be like that.

    It's easier and more effective to avoid than unsee, unread, unhear... horrible things.
     
  11. Selbbin

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I think it's important for people not to be sheltered from the realities of the world. It makes them grateful for what they have, more understanding, and hopefully more kind. But that's just me.
     
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  12. Lawless

    Lawless Active Member

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    That's true as a general principle. However, I've been in many situations where I see people who don't mind reading about, or are able to casually discuss things I find too repulsive to even think about.

    When I pick up a book and notice on page 1 that it's about a cancer patient, then I put the book away again. That topic is too horrible for me to read about. Yet it's obvious that someone wrote that book, and someone published it, and many people have bought it. Meaning, different people's tolerance levels on different topics are different.

    Talking about writing about a rape victim, there is a certain percentage of the population who think rape shouldn't be written about at all. Even if you try to play it as safe as you can and merely mention that this character was raped in the past, without providing any specifics, those people will still brandmark your book as "controversial".

    Therefore, the OP needs to make peace with the realization that it's impossible for her to make every single English speaker in the world happy. Let her just write, and read afterwards what she has written, and if she's comfortable with it, give it some other people to read, and it'll be fine by the end.
     
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  13. grayj0265

    grayj0265 Member

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    You are right in regards to many people do try to distance themselves from things that can actually hurt us. That is going to be dependent on if the writing can handle writing stuff about this and the reader can handle reading about this stuff. I think a disclaimer on this story will be needed. Another thing that needs to be considered is who is the audience? I think that needs to factor into the story, because that is going to determine what you are going to write about and what you are not going to write about.
     
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  14. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Senior Member

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    No one handles any situation is the same way although their is like a universal "natural" response to certain events. (for everyone to cry and be sad after a loved ones death). This is one of the most fascinating things for me about the human psyche and you see it a lot in serial killers. Ted Bundy blamed porn for his actions, another blamed a sever head injury. Many people watch porn and don't do what Bundy did. Others had sustained the same head injuries and survived the operation and didn't become murders of children. Many talk about childhood abuse of some sort, but many have suffered that and never done anything violent themselves. Some people try to avoid the thing that causes them pain, others seem to find comfort living in that pain.

    You can get personality "types" and if you learn your characters type it can help you navigate what their reaction might be to a situation to make it realistic. Like some types are more likely to become obsessive or have an addictive personality.
     

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