After 14 years, a survivor of rape chronicles her interviews with the man who assaulted her, a former friend.
Inside the swirling “zeitgeist” of the #MeToo movement, Vanasco (English/Towson Univ.; The Glass Eye, 2017) decided not only to write about the experience that still gives her nightmares, but also to include the perspective of the person who raped her. Over emails, phone calls, and in-person conversations, the author interviewed her former friend, Mark, and tried to make sense of his inexplicable betrayal as well as her own ambivalence toward him: “I doubt I’m the only woman sexually assaulted by a friend and confused about her feelings,” she writes. At every step of this harrowing process, from deciding how to approach Mark after years without contact to transcribing and interpreting their conversations, the author scrutinizes her own motivations, her compulsive caretaking of Mark’s discomfort during their discussions, and the lasting impact of the trauma that he caused her. Perspectives from Vanasco’s friends, her partner, and her therapist also figure heavily into the narrative, emphasizing how crucial it is for survivors to have wide networks of support. With deep self-consciousness, courage, and nuance, the author reveals the inner universe of her survivorship and interrogates the notion that rapists are two-dimensionally evil. A friend of Vanasco’s reflects, “how can someone who seems so harmless or acts so well or is so intelligent be capable of committing what is understandably kind of an evil act and how can it happen?” Though the author does not exactly answer these questions through her interviews with Mark, her engrossing, complex, incisive testament to the banality of violence is not a desolate narrative. Instead, Vanasco invites her readers to understand the complicated humanity involved in both causing and experiencing harm, leaving the limits and possibilities of accountability and healing as urgent, open questions.
An extraordinarily brave work of self- and cultural reflection.