Today marks the start of a new month – and in honour of Banned Books Week, this month’s Book of the Month is Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK.
By now, you’ve probably heard about the #SpeakLoudly twitter movement, and the voices of many bloggers crying out in outrage over the accusation that SPEAK’s rape scenes equate to nothing more than soft porn – and that it should be banned from schools.
First off, the fact that this man sees a rape scene as titillating and exciting is disturbing. That he thinks that a story centered around a rape victim’s silence is somehow morally degrading is ridiculous. That he is using religion to back up his argument is weak. That he is a man wanting to silence the voice of a rape victim (fictional or not) is sadly ironic.
Banning books is not an answer, or a solution. It is an attempt at silencing those whose voices are deemed unworthy, or morally questionable, or too vulgar. The opinion of a few should not dictate the choice of many.
I read SPEAK ages ago – probably when I was 13 or 14. And it impacted me greatly. Melinda is a character I will always remember. This is a book that speaks out for rape victims when they can’t.
By this point, I’ve lost a lot of the anger I felt when I first heard about Scroggins’ call for banning. Now I feel a sick, heavy feeling; a painful weight in my chest. When I first heard about this, I raged; I spoke out over Twitter, on Facebook, in the office, in class; anyone and everyone heard about how incredibly upset I was.
I think I wanted to throw something when I first read his argument – that was how upset I was.
Now, I’m still angry – but more than that, I am disappointed. It is sad to me that people are so willing to keep themselves and their kids so ignorant. That some people think themselves so above everyone else.
So here are some statistics. Did you know that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men in America have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime? Did you know that every 2 minutes someone in the US is sexually assaulted? Did you know that 15% of all sexually assaulted victims are under the age of 12? Or that victims of sexual assault are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression? Or 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder? They’re also 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, 26 times more likely to abuse drugs, and 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.
And did you know that sexual assault and rape are one of the most under reported crimes, with 60% still being left unreported?
Yeah. And this man thinks that kids shouldn’t be aware of rape, that it will somehow corrupt them or teach them too much. Oh, and while we’re at it, he thinks kids in Elementary school shouldn’t learn about reproduction.
Let’s just tell kids that babies come from storks.
Ignorance is not bliss. But it does lead to a lot of misunderstandings. People hate what they don’t understand. People ignore what they don’t understand. And we shouldn’t ignore the fact that sexual assault and rape happen, and that a lot of people choose not to speak about it.
The one good thing about this whole situation is that people have been coming together to show their support. To have seen people so passionate about SPEAK and many of the other banned and challenged books out there is inspiring. It gives me hope that one day we’ll be past all of that. That we’ll all be free to Speak Loudly. Kudos to everyone out there who speaks up for the freedom to choose what we (and our children) will read – and to everyone who stood up for a book like SPEAK.
So if you haven’t read this book yet, I highly suggest you pick it up.
Vanessa is a Sales Assistant at Kate Walker & Co., a book and gift sales agency located in Toronto. She is also enrolled in a publishing program. Currently, Vanessa is working on a YA fantasy novel and a Children’s non-fiction series.