*TRIGGER WARNING: SEXUAL ASSAULT*
Did You Hear (working title) is a novel that I’ve been working on based on the sexual assault of a girl named Maddy. Rather than writing about the aftermath of the assault, this novel explores the lead up to that night, following Maddy through her last year of high school. I wanted to write this novel to highlight many different issues that we face growing up; the ongoing double standards for both girls and boys, the dangers of rumours and gossip, the harrowing bullying that takes place every day on social media.
This is still in the very (very, very) early stages, but I wanted to share little snippets throughout the writing process to get some constructive criticism!
Below is a small extract from the prologue of the novel, set after the assault, looking at Maddy’s internal struggle. Let me know what you think in the comments! I’m grateful for any constructive criticism, but please be kind – I am quite nervous about sharing my work with others!
Mum’s trying too hard. I can see her in the corner of my eye, smiling a maniacal smile, desperately trying to make it seem like things are normal as we sit around the dinner table. But they’re not normal, are they. How could they be?
I’m not their precious little girl anymore, not now that they know the truth about me. I’m tarnished. Broken. Something to be ashamed of. Dad can barely look me in the eye most days. Gaz acts as though I’m not in the room. Mam looks at me with eyes full of sorrow. It’s like they’re mourning me even though I’m not dead yet.
A part of me did die that night, though. The innocent, good part. And now all that’s left is the bad, dirty, used up rubble of his destruction.
I don’t feel sad or angry or anything much at all to be honest. I feel numb. Detached from myself. Like a ghost, I hover above us, watching and hearing but not really there.
Mam’s trying to put on a brave face, act like everything’s fine, but I can see how much it’s affecting her. When she looks at me she visibly shudders, like she’s disgusted by the sight of me. I think maybe she wishes she had a good, clean daughter. A daughter who stayed home and did her homework and never looked at or talked to or touched boys. She probably wishes I had never been born, then she wouldn’t have to deal with the shame of it all.
It’s all over the news, my dirty little secret. I read about it online all the time, I can’t help myself, and it feels as though I’m reading about a different girl from a different town far away from here. It reminds me of when I used to hear about terrible things on the news and I’d watch it with a sort of detached sympathy. I’d think aw that’s so sad, that’s terrible but in the back of my mind I’d be thinking thank God that’s not me, thank God those sorts of terrible things don’t happen to girls like me in town’s like Hartbury. You never think it’ll happen to you, until it does, and then you can’t imagine how you ever thought it wouldn’t.
I scroll through social media for hours, reading all of the comments that people write about me; slut, whore, liar, bitch. Lions gnawing at every detail of my character until there’s nothing left but my shattered carcass. They say how could she try to ruin that poor boys life and what an attention seeker and did you know he was her best-friends boyfriend. They post pictures that they’ve found on my Facebook, me out with my mates, dress on, drink in hand – pictures from what feels like another lifetime – they say doesn’t exactly look like the shy type and what did she expect – dressing like that, acting like that, drinking like that. They say she was asking for it. And I think maybe they’re right. Maybe I did ask for it.
If I was like my cousins, Charlotte and Emma, if I was ‘empowered’ like them and never wore makeup or short skirts or drank too much and told pestering boys to fuck off then it might never have happened.
Do you fancy watching Dirty Dancing tonight, Maddy? Mum says you used to love that film.
Used to I think when I was old Maddy.
No thanks I say I’m tired, going to get an early night.
Ok, love. Well, if you change your mind.
She’s pleased, I can tell. She can’t really bear the idea of having to sit with me for longer than is necessary. I’m a reminder of everything that’s gone wrong in her life. In all of our lives. I’ve ruined everything.
I pick up my plate, take it over to the bin, scrape the dry chicken and overcooked vegetables into it. I say thanks for dinner to no one in particular as I leave the room.
When I get to my room I lie on my bed, pick up my phone. I’ve got 182 friend requests, people wanting to get a better look at ‘the girl who cried rape’. They’re not supposed to know my name but someone, my guess is Tracey, leaked it. I’ve been tagged in memes that say things like GIRLS WHEN DRUNK: with a GIF of a girl giving a blowjob next to it, and beneath it GIRLS THE NEXT DAY: with a GIF of a nun and a speech bubble saying HE RAPED ME. I’ve got texts from people who used to be my friends calling me bitch, slut, whore, liar. The top story on The Hartbury Times webpage is LOCAL GIRL CRIES RAPE. They talk about how I pulled out of court at the last minute, how I dropped the charges, they debate whether that could indicate that I was lying, and how the damage had already been done, how the poor boy had to deal with months of abuse, hate letters, death threats, all because I cried rape. They’ve even got a statement from him.
Even I’m starting to wonder what is true and what isn’t.
Maybe I did lead him on. Maybe I shouldn’t have kissed him that night. No, I definitely shouldn’t have kissed him that night. Maybe I shouldn’t have worn that dress or drank so much or accepted a lift home from him. I definitely shouldn’t have trusted him.
Maybe it’s me who has ruined his life and not the other way round.