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Reading List: The Reality of Rape Culture

This week's picks from Emily includes stories from The Kansas City Star, xoJane, Slate, and Defeating the Dragons.
PUBLISHED: Oct. 20, 2013

My Mom Was An Underground Railroad For Abused Women: What She Taught Me About Feminism And Fear

The writer reflects on what her mom did to help others:

"As a child, I didn’t understand most of the midnight phone calls to my mom, or the times women would come over with children in tow, sometimes even in pajamas, and I would be told to go entertain them while Mama ensconced herself in her bedroom with their mother.

"Once, my mom spotted a bruised woman with three children holding a cardboard sign in the Wal-Mart parking lot. It was pouring down rain. I was seven.

"'Stay in the car,' she said, locking me in. She went to talk to the woman."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 3, 2013
LENGTH: 9 minutes (2259 words)

How a Gun-Loving West Texas Girl Learned to Fear Assault Weapons

A personal history of guns in the writer's life:

"I have no idea where that gun is now, I only know that he took it back from me and that I don't own it, and frankly not knowing where it is also fucking terrifies me.

"If I could have taken it apart and destroyed the pieces, I would have, for reasons I didn't even understand then; I only knew that I hated it, and something I had such a strong, immediate spiritual reaction to was not a good thing.

"I'd understand those feelings a lot more intimately after college."
PUBLISHED: Dec. 19, 2012
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2871 words)

My Parents Adopted a Murderer

From Doree Shafrir's Best of Longreads picks: A woman looks back on her father's abuse—and how their relationship changed when her family adopted a teen who had killed his adoptive parents:

"He is sending these virtual photo bombs because I have stopped speaking to him. Three months ago, my sister and I mutually agreed that we were breaking off all contact -- divorcing him, disowning him -- and by extension, our mother, who apparently just doesn’t have it in her to defy him. We did this over email (admittedly, perhaps not the best way to do it, but you try verbally telling a parent it’s over -- it’s hard, y’all) and held our breath. After an initial barrage of angry emails, which devolved into apologetic emails, we’ve arrived at the photo bomb stage. No actual email, just the photos.

"The thing is, though, those happy little children in the photos? They’re nothing but ghosts, tiny spirit-girls haunting old Polaroids. When you are used to pretending that everything is ok, that you are a normal family with loving parents, you develop a really excellent false smile. You can do it on command, like a trained dog. But if we’re going to get real, if we’re to bring any semblance of verisimilitude into this, let’s look at the true pics: my father drunk and vicious, smashing up a bedroom suite, or beating the dog, or whipping my sister and me with a belt, or getting blind drunk and forcing us into the car, where he’d drive and scream at us for hours, or, in a series of nightmarish images, like some flipbook from hell, let’s see my father wrap his hands round my mother’s throat and strangle her. See me and my sister punching and kicking at his legs, trying to stop him? See our little teeth biting ineffectually at his pant cuffs?"
PUBLISHED: Dec. 12, 2012
LENGTH: 8 minutes (2153 words)

Jane Pratt’s Perpetual Adolescence

The founding editor of Sassy and Jane brings a new cast of characters to her site xoJane:

"Jane Pratt has been 15 for an awfully long time now.

"She calls that her 'emotional age,' and she thinks we all have one: It’s the time in our past that we can’t entirely let go, because of something that happened to us then. Ask her and she’ll guess yours, along with your birthday (this is a trick she sometimes does with callers to her Sirius satellite radio show). You see, she describes herself as ­being “psychic-intuitive,” which is something like having ESP. Not long ago, she tells me, she guessed the emotional age of one of her employees and it turned out that was the year she’d been raped. After we talked in her office for two hours, at her latest venture—an online women’s magazine called xoJane—she told me that she’d put mine at 13. And maybe she’s right, and I’ll always be that lonely kid in a new school.

"Or just as likely, Pratt knows that a lot of us have felt that way and don’t really get over it, but form ourselves around that hoarded trauma. Whether or not this comes by way of paranormal talent, it’s a great insight, and the reason why Sassy, the nonconformist’s teen magazine she was hired to edit when she was just out of college, in 1987, was so beloved. Her Sassy understood."
PUBLISHED: Aug. 14, 2012
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3785 words)