By C. Desir
Releases: October 1st
Who do you blame?
When Ben meets Ani, the sarcastic and free-spirited new girl in town, he falls for her – hard. Luckily for him, the feeling is mutual. Just when their relationship is getting serious, the unthinkable happens to Ani at a party that Ben decided not to attend. Ben watches as his once-vivacious girlfriend becomes a shadow of her former self; he must try to be supportive while wrestling with his own emotions about Ani’s ordeal and the lingering question in his mind: who is to blame?
C. Desir delivers a gritty, devastating, brilliant debut novel with Fault Line. Fans of Ellen Hopkins, Jason Myers, and Hannah Moskowitz will enjoy this author’s edgy realism. However, Fault Line stands out from other novels about teen sexual violence with a fresh point of view – the story is told not through the eyes of the victim, but from her boyfriend’s perspective. Unfortunately, far too many teens will recognize his feelings of frustration, anger, and helplessness in the wake of his girlfriend’s attack; readers with similar experiences will relate to and perhaps learn from Ben’s journey.
The novel came out of C. Desir’s work in The Voices and Faces Project, a writing workshop for survivors of sexual violence that promotes speaking out and writing as a therapeutic process. Desir will be donating 50% of her proceeds from the novel back to the project. For more information on The Voices and Faces Project, go to voicesandfaces.org.
About fifteen years ago, I sat in a hospital ER with a young girl who had been raped and badly beaten. Her entire being was shut down, turned inward. My job as the rape victim advocate in the room was to stay with her through the process, to explain what was going to happen, and to empower her as much as I could, even if just offering her a glass of water.
She would not talk to me. Or the doctors. Or the police. I stayed in the room and held her hand because she took mine. I waited with her after everyone left and two teenage boys came in. They were maybe eighteen or nineteen. Her brother and her boyfriend. They kissed the top of her head. Then her brother asked who did it. Nothing else. No comfort or assurances. Just “Who did it?” And she spoke for the first time. One word. A first name. Her boyfriend looked at her brother, a silent communication that I couldn’t interpret. Finally, her boyfriend said, “Don’t say anything to anyone. We got this,” and walked out. Within moments, it was like life poured back into the girl’s body. When she left the ER, still not having disclosed anything to the police or doctors, her boyfriend stood waiting for her.
Fast forward a few years, and I’m participating in a testimonial writing workshop for survivors. We’ve been told to write a scene from the perspective of a different gender. A character came to me. Ben. A boy who wants to fix his girlfriend and take care of it all. A boy who would say, “I got this.”
That was the beginning of Fault Line.
I am a childhood survivor of sexual assault. This is a label I wear on top of all the other ones: mom, wife, writer, Sunday school teacher, activist. It is something that I often don’t think about, yet it has steered the course of much of my life. From mundane things like never wanting to shop at a mall to bigger things like panicking when I get lost. I never tell people this to garner pity, but so they can understand how I see the world and how my lens has been affected.
I didn’t think I would write a book about rape until that day in the workshop. I didn’t think I had it in me. I didn’t think I could do it right. But Ben, my wonderfully flawed Ben, gave me something I needed to say. Rape impacts not only the survivor, but also those around her. And you cannot “fix” a survivor. And the way we treat survivors has a huge effect on how they heal. And sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we lose survivors.
This is not a happy story I’ve given Ben. But it’s an important one. It is a call to action for those around survivors. Stay. Fight. Hope. Believe. After seeing hundreds of survivors over the years, watching them interact with loved ones, I am astounded by the human capacity for compassion. And I hope that people see that in Fault Line. Maybe Ben’s story will help them respond in a way survivors desperately need.