What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

20922826[1]When I read this book, I was equally sickened and angered.  I wanted to punch people in the throat…  I wanted to flip tables…  I wanted to lash out and scream at Aaron Hartzler for imagining a world in which a girl could be blamed for her own rape!  The problem is, he didn’t have to imagine it.  I don’t want to have to acknowledge that there are people in this world — in this country, even — who still feel more sympathy toward how a rape conviction might ruin the lives of the young men who perpetrated the crime than how the act of rape has already ruined the life of the victim.  But, sadly, this book is not an indication that Aaron Hartzler has an over-active imagination but rather an echo of what happens in far too many communities — including Steubenville, Ohio — when a rape makes headlines.  Much like his memoir, Rapture Practice, this book reveals that Hartzler has an uncanny ability for absorbing the realities of life in the American Midwest and translating them into realistic, honest, captivating stories.

If you work with tweens and teens, or if you are a parent, I highly recommend you read this book.  Although I found it extremely unsettling to read and experience what happened to Stacey, I recognize that my personal comfort sometimes needs to take a back seat to reality.  It is important to acknowledge the fact that many people in our society still choose to react with victim-blaming and cover-ups.  It is important to question and to actively work to change this pervasive rape culture.  And one of the best ways we can do this is to start an open dialogue with our children about the topics of sexual violence, consent, and the role drugs and alcohol play in this equation.  Hopefully, books like this will help to start these important conversations and to change the hearts and minds of people who didn’t know better before.

Have a Safe and Happy New Year — and Happy Reading!

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