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TO THE SURVIVORS by Robert Uttaro


One Man's Journey as a Rape Crisis Counselor with True Stories of Sexual Violence

by Robert Uttaro

Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 2013
ISBN: 978-1490931661
Publisher: CreateSpace

A debut memoir about a man working as a rape crisis counselor.

Uttaro, who spent years as a volunteer at a crisis center, aims to “alleviate [the] shame” directed at victims of sexual assault, but he quickly asserts that he doesn’t have “all of the answers.” In college, he was inspired by a classroom visit from the center’s staff, during which he found himself “called” to work there. He chronicles his service as a counselor and occasionally includes the poetry of some of the rape survivors with whom he worked. He frequently addresses readers directly and offers compassionate advice. Occasionally, the memoir reads more like a journal, particularly when Uttaro reflects on feelings of nervousness: “Dude relax….Chill out,” he tells himself. His use of expletives may jar some readers, and the book’s tone often shifts between personal and professional. At times, he wanders off track, as when he vents about the lack of enthusiasm at a “pathetic rally,” but for the most part, he focuses on his admiration and respect for survivors and counselors alike. He also makes an effort to encourage his readers: “There is often more power in our own voices than we can fathom.” Some anecdotes are uneventful, but others are quite moving. He describes several “speaker engagements” in which survivors talked about their assaults, including Rebecca, a college student attacked by a friend; Corey, a transgendered man who took his attacker to court; Alexis, who was raped by an acquaintance in her college dorm room; and Jim, who was abused by a Roman Catholic priest. Some of the most effective segments are interviews with various staff members, including Aila, who works for the center’s legal department. She explains the difficulties of rape prosecution, concluding that “[o]nly the survivor” can truly define justice. Uttaro is particularly disturbed by “victim blaming,” and on this subject, his language swings between belligerence and poignancy: “Drunk or sober, [victims] are not to blame,” he writes. “They are never to blame.”

An engaging examination of a painful subject, with a focus on healing and forgiveness.