03.14.2019

Author Laurie Halse Anderson on Her Memoir “Shout”

Award-winning author Laurie Halse Anderson discusses how sexual abuse can shame many into silence, and why she named her new memoir recounting her own personal experience with sexual abuse, “Shout.” Anderson’s first book, “Speak,” a teen fiction novel about a rape survivor, was a worldwide phenomenon and sent her on a speaking tour of high schools around the U.S. to talk about sexual assault.

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> WE NOW TURN TO THE ACT OF VIOLENCE THAT SHAMES SO MANY INTO SILENCE, AND THAT IS SEXUAL ABUSE.

OUR NEXT GUEST SAYS THE TIME TO SPEAK UP ON THE MATTER HAS LONG PAST, AND INSTEAD, WE MUST NOW SHOUT.

20 YEARS AGO THE AUTHOR LAURIE HALSE ANDERSON PENNED UP 'SPEAK.'

IT WAS A GROUDBREAKING NOVEL CONFRONTING RAPE.

IT BECAME MANDATORY READING IN CLASSROOMS ACROSS AMERICA.

NOW, ENRAGED BY HOW LITTLE THE CULTURE HAS CHANGED, ANDERSON IS BRAVING HER PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH SEXUAL ABUSE IN HER NEW MEMOIR CALLED 'SHOUT.'

SHE TOLD OUR ALICIA MENENDEZ WHY SHE BELIVES THE ISSUE IS ONLY GETTING WORSE.

LAURIE, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

I APPRECIATE THE OPPORTUNITY, THANK YOU.

MORE THAN 20 YEARS AGO YOU HAD A DREAM, SOME MIGHT CALL IT A NIGHTMARE THAT LED YOU TO WRITE YOUR FIRST BOOK 'SPEAK.'

CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THAT MOMENT?

THAT CAME A FEW MONTHS AFTER I HAD GONE INTO THERAPY BECAUSE 23 YEARS EARLIER WHEN I WAS 13, I WAS RAPED AND I DIDN'T TELL ANYBODY ABOUT IT.

MY PTSD AND DEPRESSION FINALLY GOT TO THE POINT WHERE I HAD NO CHOICE.

I NEEDED HELP.

AFTER I STARTED EXPLORING MY TRAUMA WITH A THERAPIST, THEN AS A WRITER I WANTED TO EXPLORE IT IN MY WRITING.

THIS CHARACTER SHOWED UP ONE NIGHT JUST SOBBING IN MY HEAD AND SHE WOUND UP BECOMING THE MAIN CHARACTER.

AT THE TIME, YOU DIDN'T PUBLICLY TIE THE STORY TO YOUR OWN STORY.

WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO START SHARING THAT PUBLICLY?

WHEN 'SPEAK' CAME OUT IN 1999, I BEGAN TO RECEIVE INVITATIONS TO SPEAK AT HIGH SCHOOLS ALL OVER THE COUNTRY.

AT FIRST I THOUGHT I WAS SUPPOSED TO TALK ABOUT LITERARY ELEMENTS, BUT I HAD A RESPONSIBILITY TO TALK ABOUT MY EXPERIENCE AND MODEL SURVIVORSHIP.

IT WAS QUITE SHORTLY AFTER I STARTED TRAVELING THAT I BEGAN TO SHARE MY REAL STORIES.

'SPEAK' IS ABOUT 10% MY STORY.

'SHOUT' IS 100%.

YOUR NEW BOOK IS A POETRY MEMOIR ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE OF SURVIVING.

FOR SOMEONE WHO'S NOT READ IT, TALK ME THROUGH THE STRUCTURE OF THE BOOK AND WHY YOU WANTED TO WRITE IT THIS WAY.

THE BOOK OPENS WITH A POEM ABOUT MY FATHER WHO WAS A VETERAN FROM WORLD WAR II AND DEVELOPED PTSD AFTER HIS EXPERIENCE HOPING TO CLEAN UP AFTER THE CONCENTRATION SCAMP.

IN ORDER TO UNDERSTAND MY REACTION WHEN I WAS RAPED, WHICH WAS TO KEEP MY MOUTH SHUTSOME NOT TALK, YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT OF MY FAMILY'S SILENCE AROUND ISSUES OF VIOLENCE AND HARD CONVERSATIONS.

WE JUST DIDN'T TALK ABOUT THOSE THINGS.

SO THAT'S A LITTLE BIT OF THAT SETS UP WHAT HAPPENED WHEN I WAS 13, AND THEN MY SKPRAEKSZ HOW I DEALT WITH THAT ATTACK VERY BADLY, WHICH LED TO THE WRITING OF 'SPEAK' EVENTUALLY.

THE SECOND SECTION IS EVERYTHING I LEARNED FROM SURVIVORS OVER 20 YEARS, HOW MANY VICTIMS ARE OUT THERE, HOW POWERFUL EACH STORY IS.

AND I LET MY OWN RAGE PEEK THROUGH WITH SOME SUGGESTIONS ABOUT HOW TO CHANGE THINGS.

AT THE END I CIRCLED BACK TO MY PARENTS, WHOM I LOVED.

IT'S HARD WHEN PEOPLE DIE, YOU STILL LOVE THEM, BUT WE HAVE TO PUT THAT IN THE PAST TENSE.

LOVED THEM SO MUCH.

THANKFULLY THEY LIVED LONG ENOUGH THAT WE WERE ABLE TO REALLY DO SOME DEEP, LOVING WORK AT THE END OF THEIR LIVES, WHICH HAS REALLY STRENGTHENED ME.

WHY POETRY?

OH, POETRY IS WHAT YOU WRITE WHEN THE SUBJECT IS VERY IMPORTANT.

YOU WANT TO LEAVE ROOM FOR THE READER TO REFLECT.

IN TRADITIONAL BOOKS, IT'S THE NEXT THING AND THE SECTIONS CONNECT TOGETHER.

POETRY IS A PUNCH IN THE GUT OR IT'S A HUG.

I WANTED READERS TO EXPERIENCE ONE OF THOSE TWO REACTIONS AND THEN TAKE A BREATH AFTERWARDS.

YOU SHARE THE STORIES OF SO MANY OTHERS WHO HAVE COME TO YOU.

IS THERE ONE STORY THAT STANDS OUT TO YOU?

OH, GOSH, THERE ARE SO MANY.

THE ONE THAT MOST RECENTLY JUST TOOK MY KNEES OUT, I WAS AT A CONFERENCE A FEW YEARS AGO IN OHIO AND A YOUNG GIRL, ABOUT 12 YEARS OLD, WAS TALKING ABOUT VERY QUIETLY ABOUT HER SEXUAL ABUSE AT THE HANDS OF HER STEPFATHER.

AND SHE HAD FINALLY GONE TO HER MOM.

SHE HAD ALREADY RECEIVED THE SUPPORT AND WAS ONGOING, BUT OBVIOUSLY THEY COULDN'T LIVE WITH THAT STEPFATHER AFTER THAT, SO SHE AND HER MOM WERE LIVING IN THEIR CAR.

THE STORIES ARE ENDLESS.

AND THE VICTIMS ARE NOT JUST WOMEN.

WE HAVE TO BE CAREFUL THAT MEN AND BOYS ARE VICTIMSMENT ON COLLEGE CAMPUS, PEOPLE WHO IDENTIFY AS TRANSGENDER ARE AT RISK FOR MORE VIOLENCE THAN WOMEN, WHICH IS SHOCKING.

I THINK WE'RE FINALLY GETTING TO THE POINT WHERE THE ELEPHANT ISN'T IN THE ROOM.

THE ELEPHANT IS IN EVERY ROOM IN AMERICA.

I BELIEVE SEXUAL VIOLENCE TOUCHES EVERY FAMILY, AND I KNOW THAT THE AFTEREFFECTS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE CAN LEAD TO TRAUMA, NOT JUST FOR THE VICTIM, BUT GENERATIONALLY.

WOULD YOU READ A SECTION FROM THE BOOK FOR ME?

I WOULD LOVE TO.

THIS IS THE FIRST PART OF A TRIP.

THIS IS AN EVENTS THAT HAPPENED JUST BEFORE I WAS RAPED.

IT, PART ONE, GASOLINE.

REMEMBER THE LINE IN 'SPEAK,' AND I THOUGHT FOR JUST A MINUTE THERE THAT I WOULD START HIGH SCHOOL WITH A BOYFRIEND?

YEAH, THAT WAS ME.

FOR A COUPLE OF NAIVE DAYS WHEN I WAS 13 YEARS OLD.

WE MOVED IN JUNE, FOUR SHARDS OF A FAMILY, ONE APARTMENT OF BURNT ORANGE AND AVOCADO GREEN, TWO BEDROOMS.

I BOUGHT THE GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD ALBUM WITH MY BABY SITTING MONEY.

THE BOY ACROSS THE STREET HAD A MOTOR BIKE.

HE SIPHONED GAS FOR IT EVERY NIGHT.

THE TRICK, HE SAID, WAS ONLY TO TAKE A LITTLE FROM EACH CAR.

THAT WAY NO ONE NOTICED.

HE GRABBED ME ONCE.

PUSHED ME AGAINST A BRICK WALL, HANDS GREASED WITH EXPERIENCE, ARMS METAL CABLES LOOPING AROUND AND ENCASING ME.

I FOUGHT, TRIED TO KICK AND FAILED.

HIS MOUTH DOVE FOR MY NECK AND I BIT HIM UNTIL I TASTED BLOOD.

HE BACKED OFF, FURIOUS, CRIED THAT HUMAN BITES WERE GERM-FILLED, POISONOUS.

I SAID I HOPED THAT WAS TRUE.

THAT BOY TASTED GASOLINE DANGEROUS, BUT HE WASN'T IT.

MY SOUR VICTORY DID NOT LAST LONG.

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO EXCAVATE YOUR MEMORY AND WRITE SOMETHING LIKE THAT?

THERE WASN'T MUCH EXCAVATION.

I THINK MOST VICTIMS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE, THERE'S THAT RANGE FROM THAT UNWANTED CONTACT TO CHRONIC ABUSE TO RAPE, THOSE MEMORIES ARE ALWAYS SIMMERING UNDER THE SURFACE.

THEY HELP DETERMINE HOW WE MAKE CHOICES ON A DAILY BASIS TO STAY SAFE.

AND I HAVE TO ALWAYS RESPECT AND APPRECIATE THE TEENAGERS THAT I'VE CROSSED PATHS WITH FOR 20 YEARS BECAUSE THEY HAVE SHOWN ME OVER AND OVER AGAIN HOW MUCH THEY NEED ADULTS TO BE HONEST WITH THEM ABOUT WHAT IS OUT THERE IN THE WORLD.

AND TO HELP THEM FIGURE OUT THE DIRECTION OF THEIR MORAL COMPASS.

SOME MIGHT EXPECT OVER THE COURSE OF MORE THAN 20 YEARS YOUR ANGRY WOULD DISSIPATE BUT IT'S ONLY GROWN, IT SEEMS.

THE WORLD HAS GONE WORSE, I THINK.

IN 1999 WE WERE BEGINNING TO SEE SOME MOVEMENT, YOU KNOW, WE WERE BEGINNING TO SEE VICTIMS COMING FORWARD AND NOT BEING ASHAMED.

ASKING NEWS ORGANIZATIONS TO IDENTITY THEM BECAUSE THE PEOPLE WHO SHOULD BE SHAMED WERE THE CRIMINALS ATTACKING THEM.

THE RISE OF THE INTERNET, THE AVAILABILITY OF PORNOGRAPHY, A LOT OF BOYS LEARN ABOUT SEX FROM PORNOGRAPHY.

AND SADLY, THERE'S A LOT OF NONCONSENSUAL SEX IN THOSE VIDEOS.

I HAVE A STRONG OPINION ABOUT PORNOGRAPHY ONE WAY OR THE OTHER, BUT BECAUSE SO MANY TEENAGE BOYS DON'T HAVE ADULTS WHO WILL TALK TO THEM ABOUT CONSENT, TALK TO THEM ABOUT SEXUALITY, IF THAT'S THE LESSON THEY LEARN, THEY WIND UP HURTING THAT'S ALL ACCORDING TO FBI DATA.

ARE WE WHERE YOU THOUGHT WE WOULD BE AS A SOCIETY WHEN IT COMES TO TALKING ABOUT AND GRAPPLING WITH THIS ISSUE?

YOU ADD TO THAT STATISTIC THE MORE THAN 400,000 UNTESTED RAPE KITS THAT ARE SITTING ON THE SHELVES IN POLICE DEPARTMENTS, AND THOSE ARE FROM THE VICTIMS THAT CAME FORWARD.

WE HAVE A SYSTEM, AN ANCIENT SYSTEM IN THIS COUNTRY, WHERE THE BODIES OF VICTIMS ARE NOT IMPORTANT.

WE ARE BEGINNING TO SEE SOME POLICY IMPROVEMENTS.

YOU HAVE ORGANIZATIONS LIKE RAIN THAT IS WORKING WITH POLICE DEPARTMENTS, JUDICIARY, AND TOP LEVEL POLICY MAKERS TO ENFORCE THE LAWS THAT ARE ON THE BOOKS AND THEN DEVELOP CONSISTENT CONSENT-BASED LAWS.

WE WANT EVERYBODY TO FEEL SAFE, AND WE WANT EVERYONE TO COME FORWARD AND REPORT WHEN SOMEBODY HURTS THEM.

THAT'S FAIR.

SO OFTEN IN THIS CONVERSATION WE TEND TO MAKE IT A FEMALE-FOCUSED CONVERSATION.

WHEN YOU ARE GOING TO SCHOOLS, WHEN YOU ARE TALKING WITH YOUNG PEOPLE, WHAT ARE YOU HEARING FROM YOUNG MEN?

THEY ARE CLUELESS.

THEY OFTEN GET ONE LECTURE FROM THEIR PARENTS, WHICH IS REALLY JUST DON'T GET HER PREGNANT AND WEAR A CONNED SO YOU DON'T GET A DISEASE.

WE STILL BUY INTO THE RAPE MYTHOLOGY THAT RAPISTS ARE BAD GUYS IN THE BUSHES WITH A GUN.

90% OF THOSE VICTIMS KNOW THEIR ATTACKER, OFTEN KNOW HIM QUITE WELL.

IT'S THE GUY IN YOUR ALGEBRA CLASS.

THOSE ARE THE ENCOUNTERS WE CAN PREVENT BY EDUCATING MEN AND EXPLAINING WHAT THE RULES ARE, THE LAWS, AS WELL AS THE RULES OF HUMAN DIGNITY.

THEY'RE REALLY OPEN TO THIS.

WHEN YOU HAVE A YOUNG MAN COME TO YOU AND YOU CAN TELL HE IS QUESTIONING HIMSELF AND THE LINES THAT HE MAY HAVE CROSSED, AND IS GRAPPLING WITH THE FACT THAT HE HAS AN IDEA OF A RAPIST AND THAT IDEA ISN'T HIM WHAT WORKS DO YOU TELL HIM?

I LISTEN.

THE AGES BOYS ARE LIKE, OH, I PUSHED TOO FAR, I CRAFOSSED THE LINE.

THAT'S MAYBE THE NEXT STEP WE NEED TO TAKE IN THE ME TOO MOVEMENT, WE HAVE TO CREATE SPACES FOR THOSE CONVERSATIONS, RECKONING, IT'S A TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION BECAUSE A LOT OF MEN HAVE HARMED WOMEN.

THEY WERE FOLLOWING THE RULES THEY WERE HANDED.

AND WE HAVE TO FIGURE OUT HOW ARE WE GOING TO INCLUDE THEM IN THE CONVERSATION, MAKE SURE FIRST AND FOREMOST THE VICTIMS ARE CARED FOR, SUPPORTED, AND HELPED, BUT ALSO HOW CAN WE PREVENT GROWING ANOTHER CROP OF MEN AND BOYS WHO DON'T UNDERSTAND THE RULES.

ONE OF THE THINGS WE WATCHED IN THE WAKE OF ME TOO WAS A LOT OF VERY POWERFUL MEN LOSE THEIR JOBS AND THEN A CONVERSATION ABOUT FORGIVENESS AND REDEMPTION.

BUT I DO WONDER WHEN WE DO GET TO THE POINT WHERE WE AS A SOCIETY ARE ABLE TO GRAPPLE WITH THAT QUESTION, WHICH IS WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE FOR ONE TO REDEEM ONE'S SELF?

THAT'S A DECISION THAT EVERY VICTIM/SURVIVOR NEEDS TO DETERMINE.

THERE'S AN INTERESTING SPECTRUM WHERE PEOPLE FEEL THAT THEY ARE, RIGHT AFTER AN ASSAULT PEOPLE IDENTIFY AS A VICTIM AND THEY BECOME A SURVIVOR, THEY SHOULD BE IN CHARGE OF DO I WANT TO HAVE THIS CONVERSATION.

REAL FORGIVENESS DOESN'T COME QUICKLY.

REAL FORGIVENESS IS EARNED.

THAT LAYS DOWN DEEP ROOTS THAT ALLOW FOR GROWTH FOR EVERYBODY.

WE'RE HAVING THIS CONVERSATION IN SOMEWHAT OF A GENDER BINARY, MEMBERS OF THE TRANSCOMMUNITY, NONBINARY INDIVIDUALS, BUT RACE IS ALSO A COMPONENT THAT WHEN YOU OVERLAY IT OVER THIS CONVERSATION, THE CONVERSATION BECOMES ADDITIONALLY COMPLICATE?

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

I THINK THE INTERSECTION NATURALTY WE NEED TO BE HAVING IN THESE CONVERSATIONS, IT SIMPLIFIES THINGS.

IN THIS COUNTRY I WISH WE COULD LOOK AT EACH OTHER AS SISTERS AND BROTHERS AND SIBLINGS AND UNDERSTANDING THAT THE CONVERSATION AROUND SEXUAL VIOLENCE OFTEN CENTERS ON WHITE MIDDLE CLASS WOMEN.

WOMEN FROM NATIVE AMERICAN NATIONS HAVE THE HIGHEST RAPE OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE OFTEN BY NONNATIVE MEN.

BLACK GIRLS AND WOMEN ARE ASSAULTED AT HIGHER RATES, AND EVERYBODY DESERVES TO BE RESPECTED AND HONORED AND CARED FOR.

YOU HAVE SAID YOU WANT PEOPLE TO SHARE THIS BOOK WITH THEIR FATHERS, THEIR GRANDFATHERS, THEIR MOTHERS, AND THEIR GRANDMOTHERS.

WHY?

WE OFTEN LOOK AT THE VICTIMS OF TODAY, WHICH IS GOOD, BUT WE HAVE VICTIMS WHO HAVE FOR 70 YEARS BEEN HOLDING THEIR SECRET.

I'VE TALKED TO WOMEN IN THEIR 80s, AND I THINK THEY'RE LISTENING TO OUR ELDERS, TO EVEN REFLECT ON THE STORIES OF OTHERS WILL OPEN DOORS FOR HEALING FOR THEM, AND THAT'S ANOTHER WAY TO MOVE THE CONVERSATION FORWARD.

WE ARE ALL A PIECE ZBLFTSDS I WANT YOU TO READ ONE MORE EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK ON PAGE 226.

SHAME TURNED INSIDE OUT.

SISTERS -- SHIRTS.

SISTERS OF THE CHASE AROUND THE DESK CASTING COUCH, HOTEL ROOM, FILE CABINET.

SISTERS DRAGGING SHATTERED DREAMS, BRUISED HOPES, AMBITIONS ABANDONED IN THE DIRT.

SISTERS FISHING ONE BY ONE IN THE LAKE OF SHAME.

BOOKS FADED WITH FEAR ALWAYS COME BACK EMPTY.

TRUTH DAWNS SLOW WHEN YOU'VE BEEN BEATEN AND LIED TO, BUT IT BURNS HARD AND BRIGHT ONCE IT WAKES.

SISTERS, DROP EVERYTHING.

WALK AWAY FROM THE LAKE, LEANING ON EACH OTHER'S SHOULDERS WHEN YOU NEED THE SUPPORT, FEEL THE CONTRACTIONS OF ANOTHER TRUTH READY TO BE BORN.

SHAME TURNED INSIDE OUT IS RAGE.

ARE WE A SOCIETY THAT IS READY FOR WOMEN'S RAGE?

WE MAKE IT READY.

SOCIETY'S NEVER READY FOR RAGE BECAUSE PEOPLE WHO HOLD POWER WANT TO STAY IN POWER.

RAGE IS REVOLUTIONARY, RAGE IS WHAT FUELS REVOLUTIONS.

I THINK IT'S TIME.

YOU'VE SAID YOU WANT TO SEE ME TOO MOVED TO US TOO.

YES, MA'AM.

WHAT WOULD THAT LOOK LIKE?

THAT WOULD MEAN THAT THE SHAMING AND BLAMING THAT WOMEN SOMETIMES DO WITH EACH OTHER EVAPORATES.

AND THAT WE ALL -- I THINK WHAT'S CALLED FOR IS A LITTLE GENEROSITY OF SPIRIT.

THIS IS NOT A COMPETITION.

THERE'S A SPECTRUM OF VIOLENCE, A SPECTRUM OF RESPONSE.

IF WE CAN ALL BE A LITTLE BIT MORE GRACIOUS WITH OUR HEARTS, THAT WILL GO A LONG WAY TO BRINGING US TOGETHER.

WE TALKED ABOUT CONVERSATIONS AND THE IMPORTANCE OF CONVERSATIONS.

BUT I DO WONDER, DO YOU SEE A NEED OR AN OPPORTUNITY FOR INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE AND WHAT WOULD THAT LOOK LIKE?

OH, THIS IS A CRAZY CONCEPT, BUT WHAT IF THE LAWS WERE CONSISTENT FROM STATE TO STATE?

WHAT IF POLICE DEPARTMENTS ENFORCED HOW TO DEAL WITH RAPE VICTIMS AND HOW TO DEAL WITH POTENTIAL ATTACKERS CONSISTENTLY?

IT'S SO WEIRD WHEN YOU LOOK AT, FOR EXAMPLE, HOW JUDGES TREAT -- THEY SEEM TO BE MORE OFTEN SYMPATHETIC TO THE PERPETRATOR TO THE VICTIMS.

CONSISTENT ACROSS THE COUNTRY WOULD BE THE FIRST STEP.

WHAT STANDS IN THE WAY OF THAT?

GENERATIONS OF MEN WHO THOUGHT WIMTZ OMEN'S BODIES WER THERE PROPERTY.

THOSE MEN ARE IN CHARGE OF POLICY WHO GREW UP AT THAT TIME WHEN MEN WERE ALLOWED TO RAPE THEIR WIVES, WOMEN HAD TO LEAVE THEIR JOBS WHEN THEY GOT PREGNANT.

THEY'RE RESISTANT, WHICH IS WHY WE HAVE TO LEAN ON THE YOUNG A LITTLE BIT.

THEY SEE THINGS MORE CLEARLY AND THEY HAVE MUCH MORE AT STAKE.

LORI, THANK YOU SO MUCH.

THANK YOU.

I APPRECIATE THIS.

About This Episode EXPAND

Two youth workers, Cure Violence’s Mikey Davis and the Brixton Soup Kitchen’s Mahamed Hashi, discuss street violence as a public health issue; author Laurie Halse Anderson on “Shout,” her memoir, and on why sexual abuse can shame victims into silence; and neuroscientist Matthew Walker on why sleeping more could improve our health and change our lives.

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