My new novel, The Castle, which will be published by TouchPoint Press on September 13, 2021, tells the story of Maggie, a National Park Ranger who is recovering from a gang rape she suffered in the military, as well as other tragedies. The reader follows Maggie through her anger, despair, and recovery.
I fashioned Maggie’s after researching rape survivors, noting the characteristics that bind them together. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, rape victims are overwhelmingly young women, though of course older females, children, and males can be victims of the crime, as well.
Maggie, as a former member of the military, is at a higher risk of sexual violence. Women in the military are most likely to be sexually harassed–which is defined as an act that does not involve physical contact–by someone in their chain of command. This behavior easily escalates into sexual assault and rape. Sadly, when these acts are reported, it’s the victim who suffers. Peers no longer want to work with them, fearing that they too will be accused of sexual violence. Often, after reporting these attacks, victims are discharged from the service under less than honorable circumstances, while their attackers are rarely punished.
The fact that Maggie is also of Native American descent further ups her chances of being raped. Statistics show that 1 in 3 American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped at some point in their lives.
Sarah Deer, a professor at the University of Kansas and author of The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America said, “Native women have told me that what you do when you raise a daughter in this environment is you prepare her for what to do when she’s raped – not if, but when.”
One of the big problems in regard to rape victims is the fact that many feel shame after their attack, as if they deserved the violence that was perpetrated against them. Perhaps the the attack was caused by the clothes they were wearing, something they said, or because they’d been drinking. This, in turn, makes 80% of them remain silent, so they have no closure–carrying the guilt and shame like a backpack stitched to their skin–and allowing the rapists to go free to attack again.
So, what can we do? First, let’s stop blaming the victim. Let’s encourage them to come forward and report the crimes, and provide them with rape counseling advocates so they can recover from the trauma. Then let’s do away with demeaning verbiage like slut and whore and bitch, words that firmly identify women as “less than” in regard to men. We must agree that jokes about sexual assault and rape are never funny nor acceptable. And finally, let’s teach sex education in every school, so that we can arm our young people with the facts and hopefully give them an idea of what exactly consensual sex looks like.
Rape is a cruel and messy crime, one with lifelong ramifications. It’s also a massively expensive problem. According to a 2018 report by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the approximately 25 million rape survivors in the country will cost the US more than $3 trillion dollars over their lifetimes, money spent on health care, criminal justice response, lost productivity, and other costs.
Clearly, rape is crime we can’t afford, both in regard to the financial expense, as well as the horrific personal toll.
Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.
Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense
September 13, 2021
Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—a six-hundred-year-old pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.
One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.
Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.
One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target.
In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.
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