by Catherine Conroy
The Writers as Readers Book Club meeting, November 1, 2015, was an astonishing experience. The author, Anne Ream, petite, vibrant, in 5” heels, and her Operations Manager, Julie Burgener, joined a circle of book club members and guests at Barnes & Noble for a compelling discussion of her book Lived Through This, Listening to the Stories of Sexual Violence Survivors.
Anne, articulate and poised, revealed her ten year journey from genesis to publication of her book. Its pages are packed with powerful stories told in digestible three to ten page chapters. In her book, Anne narrates twenty stories of men and women, including her own life-altering experience. The stories create a singular voice of triumph. In Anne’s words, “living reminders of all that remains possible in the wake of the terrible.”
Anne’s book is extraordinary for its readability; the individuals are memorable rather than the details of what happened to them. “Being truly heard will change your life. Which means that someone has to do the listening.” Anne listened. Along with her photographer, Patricia Evans, she gathered over 100 stories, which she culled to create her book.
The book’s introduction alone offers “hope” in the face of demons. Testimonies are “necessary in a world that too often underestimates the scope and scale of sexual violence.” Statistics reveal unexpected truths: “One in three women across the globe has been a victim of rape or physical abuse. One in five women in the United States will be raped at some point in their lifetime. Nearly one in six boys will live through rape or sexual abuse before they turn eighteen.” per the World Health Organization report in 2013. This book is important.
Anne spoke of a world that neglects the stories she insists on telling. She writes them even though “…the world would be kinder to me, and I more appealing to it, if I kept to a minimum the exposure of any uncomfortable truths.”
In Anne’s book, not only did we meet Anne, we recognized her strength and determination in the creation of a vehicle for her experience and that of others. Through her we met Bette Cerf Hill, age eighty, a fifty year survivor of rape, Alisa Roadcup, who works “with refugee girls through Heshima Kenya, a nonprofit organization in Nairobi.” Sasha Walters, raped when she was thirteen, whose exposure during college to a volunteer organization “Sexual Assault and Abuse Services” in DeKalb, IL reshaped her thinking and started her down the road of speaking out. Roger Canaff, a victim of childhood abuse, is a “prosecutor and victims advocate”. Dorothy Allison, acclaimed writer and teacher, first abused by her stepfather when she was five, infuses her writings with firsthand knowledge, employing humor and grit in her stories. The list goes on, including the “Women of Atenco, Mexico” and “The Survivors of Prince Edward Island.”
We discussed the stories. We learned that Anne is a Chicago writer and founder of Voices and Faces Project “created to bring the stories of gender-based violence to the attention of the public.” Several of us discovered how we are or have been involved in organizations that link well with hers; several ideas were introduced for future collaboration with Anne.
We thanked Anne for her courage in writing her book and applauded her for creating public awareness of gender-based violence.
Please read, Lived Through This, Listening to the Stories of Sexual Violence Survivors, by Anne Ream and discover and support her causes by visiting: voicesandfaces.org. WaR’s next read is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. WaR will meet again December 1, 2015, 6:30 – 8:30 pm at Barnes & Noble, Cherry Valley Mall.