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Guest Post: Katelyn Wonderlin of Bolton Refuge House

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), a time when communities come together to raise awareness and show solidarity with survivors of sexual violence. Katelyn Wonderlin from Bolton Refuge House has put together a list of recommendations for SAAM. These books are great for anyone hoping to better understand their own experiences, anyone who wants to be a supportive person, or for anyone interested in learning more about how to create community change.

If you, or someone you know has been impacted by sexual violence, an advocate is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at: (715)834-9578

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Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement by Tarana Burke

Tarana Burke is an activist and founder of the “Me Too” movement. In this book she writes about the power of empathy and the importance of sharing stories. She talks about her own experiences as a survivor of sexual abuse as well as the power of sharing those stories to help other survivors feel less alone. This book is an exploration into all of the intricacies and burdens placed on survivors and especially on children who have survived sexual abuse. She talks about the feelings of shame and negative self-feelings that so many survivors experience after sexual assault. Through this book, Tarana Burke tells about how she came to have empathy for the past, present, and future versions of herself and how she came to found the movement that has had such impactful affects to this day. She is an expert who assures everyone they have a role in preventing sexual assault from ever happening.

Somebody’s Daughter: A Memoir by Ashley C. Ford

Ashley C. Ford has appeared on various podcasts and written for many publications including The Guardian, ELLE, Slate, Teen Vogue, OUT Magazine, BuzzFeed News. This is her debut, a memoir of her life growing up in poverty, with a fraught relationship with her mother and a father she idolizes. She feels her father is the only one who understands her, she relates to him, and he writes her beautiful things. Her father has been incarcerated for much of her childhood for a reason she doesn’t know until much later in her life. She talks about her changing body, others reactions to her body, and her experiences surviving sexual assault. Ford addresses many different facets of trauma- the conscious and unconscious effects, familial relationships and how both of those can change throughout a lifetime. Additionally, she describes the healing power of supportive people in the lives of survivors. She explores the growth and the development of boundaries that can come with time and age. Through her writing she also demonstrates the power and necessity of many survivors to share their own story from their own perspective. This is an honest, incredibly well-written memoir with quotes that shine and really stick with the reader.

Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands by Kate Beaton

You might already be familiar with Kate Beaton’s charming and hilarious webcomic Hark! A Vagrant, published in 2018. Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands is her memoir about moving from her home in Mabou, Nova Scotia to work in the oil fields in Alberta in Eastern Canada. She talks about her experiences as a women in a male dominated industry, the constant sexual harassment she faced, and the reality of how impossible it can be to report, much less to receive any remedy for harassment. Through masterful combination of art and narrative, Beaton discusses the environmental and health impacts of the oil industry, sexual harassment and sexual violence, homesickness, the destruction of First Nations lands, and the power of connection. Kate Beaton tells a story that is melancholic, empathetic, and at times funny that demonstrates that even so far from home, and even when things can feel lonely it is still possible to find connection and to know you aren’t the only one.

Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence by Anita Hill

Anita Hill is a lawyer, educator, author, and a groundbreaker in the anti-violence movement. She is a professor of social policy, law, and women’s studies at Brandeis University and a faculty member of the university’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management. In 1991, she became a public figure when she testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee about her experiences of sexual harassment by Supreme Court nominee, Clarence Thomas. With expertise and thorough understanding, Hill discusses gender violence in law, politics, the workplace, social media, and in society as a whole. She describes the impact of sexual violence on our acquaintances, colleagues, friends, family, our communities, and ourselves. Believing is both reflective, looking at the 30 years since Anita Hill’s landmark testimony, and forward-focused with actionable steps and paths towards ending gender violence.

In the Shadow of the Mountain: A Memoir of Courage by Silvia Vasquez-Lavado

This memoir follows Silvia Vasquez-Lavado as she leads a group of female survivors of sexual abuse up Mount Everest. She details the struggles, dangers, and triumphs of the huge undertaking while sharing the stories of the women in the group. Vasquez-Lavado also shares her experiences growing up in Peru where she was physically abused by her father and sexually abused by a close family friend. She talks about being told to suppress or stay quiet when she tries to speak up and how the trauma follows her. Vasquez-Lavado also talks about her struggles with alcoholism, the pressures to fit in the corporate world, and the journey to understand and accept her sexuality. The descriptions and compelling writing give the reader a sense of the magnitude of the undertaking before them and the power of finding strength in others and resilience in yourself.