When we think about sexual abuse and rape, we often think of women. But the truth is, boys and men can and do get sexually assaulted. In fact, while the stats indicate that 1 out of 3 girls will be a victim by the time they are 18, the stats are not much better for boys with 1 out of 5 reporting abuse by the time they are 18. And we know that stats are often under reported, marginalized or discounted. Especially for boys because we tend to think that boys are too strong or too big to be victimized. But sexual assault isn’t always about overpowering someone physically, which can and does happen even with boys, but it is about grooming and building twisted relationships and emotional/psychological power-plays. This project, referenced on Buzzfeed, demonstrates some of the various threats and statements that have been made to boys from their abusers or when they tried to report their abuse.
Earlier today, I reviewed The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely, a book that looks at the abuse of 3 boys in the Catholic Church. It is just one of many important titles that help shed a light on this topic. Although difficult to read, it is important that we do in fact read these books because they help bring that which is hidden in the dark into the light so that victims can know that they are not alone, so that friends and family members can help gain empathy and provide support, and so that we may one day bring this type of abuse to an end because all will understand what it is, how our children are victimized, and recognize the signs. Knowledge is indeed power. Here is a list of a few other titles dealing with the topic of sexual abuse in the lives of boys.
When Jeff Comes Home by Catherine Atkins
Publisher’s Annotation: Two years ago, Jeff Hart was kidnapped at knife point. Now his kidnapper is releasing him to return home. But when Jeff finds his family, he feels shell-shocked and unable to tell anyone what happened. He can’t believe that anyone-not even his family or friends-will understand what he went through. Jeff isn’t the same person he was before, and he never will be again.
Karen says: Released in 2001, this was the first book I read that I can recall there being a male victim. Most sexual abuse cases are not kidnappings by strangers, as depicted here, but it is gut wrenching to read about Jeff’s guilt and confusion.
Nicholas Dane by Melvin Burgess
Publisher’s Annotation: His most substantial book to date, this compelling story of a teenager caught in a corrupt 1980s Care Home is a powerful study of a particularly highly-charged and distressing subject. Handled with great sensitivity and engrossing narrative drive, it is an important addition to the understanding of how childcare can go so wrong.
Swagger by Carl Deuker
Publisher’s Annotation: When high school senior Jonas moves to Seattle, he is glad to meet Levi, a nice, soft-spoken guy and fellow basketball player. Suspense builds like a slow drumbeat as readers start to smell a rat in Ryan Hartwell, a charismatic basketball coach and sexual predator. When Levi reluctantly tells Jonas that Hartwell abused him, Jonas has to decide whether he should risk his future career to report the coach. Pitch-perfect basketball plays, well-developed characters, and fine storytelling make this psychological sports novel a slam dunk
Boy Toy by Barry Lyga
Publisher’s Annotation: Josh Mendel has a secret. Unfortunately, everyone knows what it is.
Five years ago, Josh’s life changed. Drastically. And everyone in his school, his town—seems like the world—thinks they understand. But they don’t—they can’t. And now, about to graduate from high school, Josh is still trying to sort through the pieces.
Heather Booth says: “I think this is a good one because the boy needs to confront and understand the problems with society’s idea of male sexuality before he can admit that he was actually abused by his teacher.”
33 Snowfish by Adam Rapp
Publisher’s Annotation: On the run in a stolen car with a kidnapped baby in tow, Custis, Curl, and Boobie are three young people with deeply troubled pasts and bleak futures. As they struggle to find a new life for themselves, it becomes painfully clear that none of them will ever be able to leave the past behind. Yet for one, redemption is waiting in the unlikeliest of places. See also Little Chicago by Adam Rapp.
There is also Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, which I discussed here, and Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen and Inexcusable by Chris Lynch, which appears on an earlier list of titles dealing with sexual violence in YA lit.
Robin also wanted me to point out there there is a newer nonfiction title on the topic called Rewind, rebound : a teenage guy’s book for dealing with sexual abuse by Mindy Loiselle. It was released in 2010.
Here’s the 411:
We’re going to Google Hangout and do a “virtual discussion panel” with authors Carrie Mesrobian (Sex & Violence), Christa Desir (Fault Line) and Trish Doller (Where the Stars Still Shine) on Wednesday, January 29th at Noon Eastern to discuss Sexual Violence in the lives of teens and YA lit. You can join us for our virtual panel. We will also be attempting to record it so you can view it later. Some of the questions we will be discussing include how writers go about making realistic representations to raise awareness and give teen survivors a voice. These are all good books with some good discussion and I recommend reading them. In fact, read them before January 29th and join us.
More About Sexual Violence in YA Lit on TLT:
What It’s Like for a Girl: How Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama made me think about the politics of sexuality in the life of girls
Sexual Assault Awareness Month, talking to teens about consent and rape part 1 and part 2
Should there be sex in YA books?
Plan B: What Youth Advocates Need to Know
Because No Always Mean No, a list of books dealing with sexual assault
Who Will Save You? Boundaries, Rescue and the Role of Adults in YA Lit. A look at consent and respecting boundaries in relationships outside of just sex.
Incest, the last taboo
This is What Consent Looks Like
That Time Matt Smith Perpetuated Street Harassment Culture at Comic Con
An Anonymous Letter to Those Who Would Ban Eleanor and Park
Take 5: Difficult books on an important topic (sexual violence)