The best, ultimately uplifting, stories about sexual abuse and harassment

The Books I Picked & Why

Invisible Girl

By Sandra J. Dixon

Book cover of Invisible Girl

Why this book?

The younger the victim, the more egregious the act seems. This true story is a riveting read. Dixon repressed childhood incest memories until, ironically, she became a nurse helping others with similar pasts. The book is an insightful look at how hidden pain manifests itself in our current lives regardless of what walls the mind has erected to protect us. Woven into the memoir is helpful advice for survivors, counselors, lawyers, and others working with abuse victims. I was mesmerized.


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The Kiss: A Memoir

By Kathryn Harrison

Book cover of The Kiss: A Memoir

Why this book?

You would be forgiven for finding this memoir creepy and cringe-worthy. It is also bold and brave in its brash, brutally honest depiction of a sexual relationship between a woman in her twenties and her father. (I refuse to call it “love”.) The story is a raw example of how predators push through the permeable walls between right and wrong for their own gain. You may not agree with the young woman’s choices and you may not feel satisfied in the end, but you will accept her anguish and enter a world you hate to know exists.


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Stay Mad, Sweetheart

By Heleen Kist

Book cover of Stay Mad, Sweetheart

Why this book?

This hugely entertaining and thought-provoking novel tackles sexual harassment and cyberbullying in a fast-paced revenge tale. Three women in the early stages of successful careers seek to avenge a friend who fell victim to a celebrity’s advances only to be harassed a second time by multitudes of strangers online. We see fault and questionable behavior from the victim, the perpetrators, and the friends. As the book's description says, it's a fine line between justice and revenge. And, I might add, that line differs for every individual.


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The Color Purple

By Alice Walker

Book cover of The Color Purple

Why this book?

If you haven’t yet read this modern classic, consider it time. Incest is not technically the focus but it threads throughout the narrative as one of many violent acts impacting the lives of the characters as they struggle to survive and attain some degree of identity and peace. As with any trauma, the abuse’s repercussions are manifested in expected and unexpected ways. You’ll draw a deep breath and sigh in relief when the main character Celie propels herself beyond her past to attain a new level of freedom and happiness.


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The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

By Ellen Bass, Laura Davis

Book cover of The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

Why this book?

First published in 1988, this self-help book remains a crucial guide for survivors of incest and childhood sexual abuse. The first important thing it does is tell survivors they are not alone; this remains critical even though social media has relieved some of the isolation victims feel. Second, it gives shape to the demon through heartbreaking first-hand accounts. Third, it offers a pathway to healing, laying out practical steps and writing exercises suitable for anyone. The book has a few critics but as someone who benefitted personally from the wisdom and caring in these pages, I say, “Ignore them.”


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