Lucky is a word that can often be used to describe going through a horrible situation, but not ending up with worse. Yes, it was lucky, but it doesn’t make the horrible situation any less horrible.
Alice Sebold the author of The Lovely Bones went through something that some would call her lucky for, but it was terrible for her. When Alice was a young college student, she was accosted in a park she cut through on her way home and brutally beaten and raped.
Over the course of the book, Alice describes what happened in painful detail. She describes what the man did to her, where he hit her, how he treated her, and his appearance. The event seems to be etched into Alice’s brain, and with good reason, there aren’t many of us who could forget something like that.
Alice goes on to speak of how people labeled her “that raped girl.” People would look at her funny and treat her as damaged goods. They would whisper and say, “She’s the one who was raped.” People would describe her, and other rape victims, as “ruined.”
Alice’s trial was a momentous occasion. It wasn’t common for rape trials to go as far as Alice’s trial went. Alice was able to identify her rapist. There was evidence and he was sentenced. He went to prison. Alice became a pro at surviving, but she realizes she still has issues to deal with. Alice was lucky that she didn’t end up dead, but all the things she went through afterward were just awful.
What I liked
I’ve only read one of Alice’s books so far, The Lovely Bones, but this book gives me a new appreciation for Alice. I’m going to look at her work differently, not as the “ruined” girl or the “lucky” girl, but as a woman who has been through something extremely difficult and knows what she is writing about. She knows the feelings. She knows the heartbreak. She knows all of it.
Reading this book makes The Lovely Bones seem so much heavier. What happened to the main character in that book was what could have happened to Alice. Instead of a young girl being raped and murdered, it could have been Alice. It could have been her. Alice could have been the dead girl looking down on everyone from her version of heaven.
Alice was correct about the idea that people thought she was ruined. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but it’s good that she mentioned it. There is still this attitude floating around that you’re “ruined,” as a woman, once you no longer have your virginity. People were skirting around Alice. They were dodging her. There were distancing themselves from her. Who wants to be around the ruined girl? There is all this talk of rape culture these days. We need to speak about it. It’s good that Alice spoke about it. We need to let people know what they’re doing to make victims feel awful and they need to know what they’re doing to continue the support of such a culture. I’m glad Alice brought all of this up.
What I didn’t like
Afterward, Alice went through Hell. People were treating her weird and everything, everything, she said was constantly being dissected and analyzed. You know, I get that there have been occasions where men have gone to prison for rape on a word. They didn’t actually do it but went to prison anyway. How often does that happen? Not often. Most of the time, the guy did it. I’m sorry, but if somehow you’re suspicious enough to be implicated in a rape, then you did something, that’s not always to say you did rape, but you did something that casts you in that guilty light.
I don’t like how harshly Alice was dealt with. Everyone was trying to disprove her words. Was he really black? Can you tell one black person from another? I mean, really, Alice isn’t stupid, she can tell one face from another face. I think it’s stupid how harshly she was dealt with. She was already a victim of a violent crime, but these people were making her a victim again with all their doubt and harassment.
I don’t get why DNA evidence wasn’t really used in this case. I get that it was back in 1980 and maybe DNA testing wasn’t so good then, but they were able to match a hair, why not more? This could have saved the court, and Alice, a whole bunch of trouble. Your DNA was all over her; you did it, end of story. Capisce?
This brings to mind something more current. The state I’m in, I don’t know about elsewhere, has decided to not call rape “rape,” they’re now calling it “criminal sexual assault.” What? To me, it sounds as if they’re trying to downplay the severity of rape. Touching someone’s butt when they don’t want you to is sexual assault; forcing yourself on someone is rape, not merely assault. In generalities, you could say that rape is a type of sexual assault, but it’s a heck of a lot more terrible and damaging than simply getting your boobs grabbed by a drunk guy, which is sexual assault. People get sexually assaulted by the TSA every single day, but rape is a different story.
My point in mentioning this is to say that we need stories like Alice’s so we can recognize serious problems that we need to fix as a society. We can’t downplay something like Alice’s experience.
I’m glad Alice was able to tell this story and go on to use her experience as a platform for her writing.
Do you think attitudes towards rape victims have changed since the time Alice was raped?
Do you believe that we promote the idea of rape, by not talking about it?