Saturday, March 11, 2017

Asking for It by Louise O'Neill

"Emma O'Donovan is eighteen, beautiful, and fearless. It's the beginning of summer in a quiet Irish town and tonight she and her friends have dressed to impress. Everyone is at the big party, but all eyes are on Emma.
The next morning, Emma's parents discover her in a heap on the doorstep of their home, unconscious. She is disheveled, bleeding and disoriented, looking as if she had been dumped there in a hurry. She remembers nothing from the party.
That day several devastating photos from the party are posted online and go viral, eventually launching a criminal investigation and sending the community in to tumult. The media descends, neighbors choose sides, and people from all over the world want to talk about her story.
Emma's life has been changed forever by an unthinkable and all-too-common act of sexual violence, and all she wants is to disappear." (jacket cover)


Louise O'Neill has written a brilliant novel about the aftermath of intoxication and rape in a way that was desperately needed. Emma's story sadly is not unique. In the aftermath of her rape, she remembers having sex with someone at a party, but nothing much until her parents find her passed out on the porch. Emma's downward spiral officially starts when she gets to school and her friends turn their back on her. It's during a conversation with her friends that Emma realizes 4 different boys had sex with her, and she only knew of 1 of them. When photos and video of what happened at the party surface on Facebook, Emma is approached by Ms. McCarthy, she has to confront what has been done to her and the steps she will need to follow to find her way again. Not only does Emma have to confront her attack, she has to watch her story unfold in international news. 

Too often rape victims are treated as pariah and blamed for what has been done to them. The victims often have to defend themselves in not only a court room but in the court of social opinion. Often victims are accussed of ruining their attackers lives if they tell what happened. Much like in the case of Rapist Brock Turner. The attacker had glowing character witnesses a sparkly clean photo shown in the press, everything to insure that he was innocent until proven guilty; while his victim (even though nameless in the media) had accusations thrown around about her character. Emma's life was left in shambles after her attack, her reputation in ruins, but her rapists, the community rallied around them. Far too often this occurs in today's society. Far too often we, as a society, protect the rapist instead of the rape victim. It needs to stop.

Louise O'Neill chose a realistic ending to her novel that while it left me empty inside because it's not all wrapped up like I would like, it's true to the narrative of Emma's story and the narrative of so many victims/survivors. O'Neill's book is a great way to continue if not START a conversation on sexual assault and rape and maybe a way to instead of teaching our daughters (and sons) not to be raped, maybe start teaching others not to be rapist.

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