Not Your Plot Device to Abuse
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have one thing to say:
Rape is not your plot device to abuse.
Let’s face it. Sexual assault is a terrifyingly real aspect of the world. It’s not just women who are the victims. Statistics say that someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes in the United States. But it is frequently women, because it is very prevalent in a male-dominated society for women to be considered “owned” in some way or another, and thus “free game.”
So it’s only natural that this event of the real world would appear in fiction. But too many authors, male and female, ignore the actual implications to their characters of what they are writing.
It’s a device that is “easy” to use. Just go ahead and throw it in there, it will have a shock value to the audience, right? A good way to show how bad a bad guy is. Yet little thought seems to be given to the characters they have it happen to. Sometimes they exist in the book just to have that happen to them. Or then it just doesn’t suit the plot for the character to be traumatized, so ten pages later, all better! Need your hero to have some romance but not have to work to overcome her past? No problem, because sexual assault is easy to overcome, right?
Come on, people. Yes, you’re writing fiction, but you’re devaluing the trauma and experiences of survivors everywhere when you throw it around so casually.
I feel the same about a lot of devices authors throw around, but as a woman, this one is even more often overused and under-written.
How about some authors who not only throw it around casually in one book but many? It makes a reader wonder if the author really lacks the creative ability to achieve dramatic effect without resorting to this “easy” ploy but without affording the time, effort, and development to properly do so.
Not all victims or survivors react the same way to assaults, and there are many different ways it happens, but the fact is that there is a reaction, there is trauma, and that needs to be respected. If you choose to use the event, then have the respect to handle it properly for the character and not just ignore its effects when it is inconvenient to your plot.
And please consider if you really need to use it. Don’t use it casually, but be sure that it is necessary to the back story, or plot, or character in some way. Don’t use it as a “handy” device to produce that pre-manufactured emotional response in the readers without really thinking through what it means, okay?