We've got a guest post today for you from Lisa Burstein, the author of Again. Check out the post, and all the book details, and be sure to enter Lisa's amazing giveaway!!! :)
How far would you go for a second chance?
Eleven years after flunking out of college, Kate has finally hit rock-bottom. Losing her job and boyfriend in one drunken night, she’s determined to fix her life by going back to the moment when she let partying and sex take over. And do things right this time. At twenty-nine, she heads back to freshman year of college, with a catch. Pretending she's nineteen with a new roommate and full class schedule is easy. When she meets her shy, sexy and seven-years-younger RA, Carter, following her self-imposed sobriety and celibacy rules is proving to be anything but. A senior enduring years of regret, Carter is more than ready to graduate. He’s anxious to move on from the party his freshman year where he witnessed his frat brothers about to commit a sexual assault. Instead of doing the right thing and stepping in, he looked the other way and left. His guilt has made for a lonely four years. When he meets the new freshman on his floor, spunky and confident Kate, he wonders if his time as an outcast has finally come to an end. Kate and Carter’s growing friendship and undeniable attraction make it harder to hide the demons from their respective pasts. But when their secrets are finally revealed, will their chance at starting over together still be there?
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I've written before about my experience being raped by my ex-boyfriend when I was seventeen years old. You can see a post about that here. But this post is about something else. This is not about me, or the boy who raped me, this is about the boy who watched.
The boy who saw what was happening right in front of him and left.
The boy I considered a friend who saw me being assaulted and chose to do nothing.
The boy who I knew understood something was wrong because he called me later to make sure I was okay.
The boy who made me wonder what he did with his guilt.
It was this boy who made me want to write Carter as a character who does the same thing. In Again, Carter witnesses a sexual assault about to occur at his fraternity during his freshman year, but does nothing to stop it. He leaves. He doesn't know the girl his brothers are going to assault, but the guilt he feels is immense, intense and cripples him for years after.
How would you react in a similar situation? How would I have reacted?
It’s a question you hope you’re never faced with. Or if you are faced with having to stop someone from being hurt you assume you’ll do the right thing. You're positive you'll step in and do whatever you can.
If you have a friend who you see needs help; you help, right?
Or is it more complicated than that when it involves sexual assault, especially when you are a guy? When maybe it seems easier to stay out of it, or ignore it. If you aren't the one engaging in the assault than it isn't your concern.
Girls are taught they are allowed to say no. Boys are taught that no means no. But what are people taught when they see someone being assaulted?
I’ve thought about this a lot.
For years I've wondered how my friend felt after walking away from me that night.
What he did with what must have been the gnawing feeling in his gut as he walked away? If he could go back would he have done things differently?
With Carter and Again, I've fictionally given him a second chance.
Having turned my questions about him into Carter, I had to be in his shoes and write his thoughts, feelings, and fears. Through Carter I've come to see that maybe my friend's actions weren't all his fault. That just like me he was only seventeen.
That as confused as I felt about what was happening to me, he must have been similarly confused by what he saw.
This was also twenty years ago.
I am not in high school or college anymore, but I'm encouraged that some of the education around sexual assault now includes what you should do as a bystander.
Now includes not being afraid to tell about what happened to you, or what you see.
We are all bystanders until we speak out.
Carter learns to forgive himself in Again, and I have finally learned to forgive my friend.
MFA in Creative Writing from the Inland Northwest Center for Writers at Eastern Washington University. She is the author of Pretty Amy, The Next Forever, Dear Cassie, Sneaking Candy and The Possibility of Us. As well as a contributor to the essay collection, Break These Rules: 35 YA Authors On Speaking Up, Standing Out, and Being Yourself. Again is her self-publishing debut. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her very patient husband, a neurotic dog and two cats.