A self-help book about challenging rape culture, aimed primarily at women who’ve faced sexual assault or harassment in the past.
Engel’s (It Wasn’t Your Fault, 2015, etc.) latest self-help book again draws on her work as a psychotherapist. Here, she strives to teach women how to say “no,” particularly when faced with possible sexual misconduct or abuse. Each chapter includes exercises to help readers to better comprehend their behaviors and emotions, and to practice saying “no” in a variety of contexts. Real-life anecdotes from Engel’s clients add color and provide specific examples, and appendices provide recommendations for further reading and information on women’s rights organizations. Engel’s tone is chatty and empowering as she reminds victims that they can move past an assault, and as she encourages all women to become comfortable at expressing anger. She effectively acknowledges that prevention should not be a victim’s responsibility; that said, the tone of her cautioning sometimes borders on finger-wagging (“Fraternity parties and parties made up of football players are particularly dangerous places for young women”; “Never be alone in a room with a man you don’t know”). However, the book does a good job of presenting strategies to develop self-awareness, recognize potential threats, and get out of problematic situations. Engel’s approach won’t appeal to everyone; her characterization of the penis as a weapon, for instance, may raise eyebrows, and the book’s tendency to generalize about entire cultures (“The Balinese people are noted for several things”; “Latinas often accept their situations with resignation”) seems tone-deaf. On the whole, though, this is a collection of well-organized, practical information for its target readership.
A useful guide to combating sexual violence and raising women’s self-esteem.