Can I say No?

When I started writing Book 1 in German I had no idea what would happen. I didn’t know that I had chosen a topic that wasn’t normally part of an Urban Fantasy novel – sexual abuse. Only after I had published my book and received several messages from people who were very astonished about my choice of topic did I realize that this was, apparently, highly unusual.
My reasons for doing it, however, were pretty simple: It is a subject I deeply care about. A topic that is often not talked about but one that is so very important in my opinion. I always knew that I wanted my book to convey a message. That’s why I wrote about it. I didn’t even consider if it was fitting for a fantasy novel or not.

For years I have concerned myself with this subject. I read books and articles and talked to survivors of sexual abuse. Everyday I learned something new – and still continue to learn. Sometimes I have to change my opinion about something based on new insights I gained.

But one principle has never changed for me.

No means No.

Only I can decide what happens to my body, when it happens, and with whom it happens. No one has the right to make that decision for me. When I say No, that means No. And it’s not up for discussion or to be questioned. Even if I agree at first I always have the right to change my mind. Even then, No means No.

This is a principle I wholeheartedly believe in, and I am shocked that this seems to questioned quite frequently – and seems to be misunderstood by so many. Why do I have to justify my decision to say No? Why do I have to explain if I change my mind? When I do not agree with something, that is my decision and it doesn’t matter if other people understand this decision or not. Because it is my decision to say no.

This may sound simple, but I am fully aware that the reality is more complicated than that. Also, the so called “victim blaming” is still very common.

You’ve been wearing a short skirt? Of course others touched you.
You were too drunk to defend yourself? You might want to reconsider your drinking habits.
Someone roofied your drink? Why didn’t you pay better attention to your glass?

This list can go on forever and all these arguments place the blame on one person – the one who apparently hasn’t been careful enough. But this is the wrong focus.

Shouldn’t the questions be:

Why did you touch them without permission?
Why didn’t you notice that they were too drunk to agree?
Why did you roofie their drink?

Why do victims of sexual abuse still have a harder time than their offenders?
Why do so many people feel quilty?
Because our society teaches us to feel like that. Because there are classes that teach us how to defend ourselves (which is good!), but there are no classes that teach the importance of “No means No”. Victims are trained, offenders excused. And that’s exactly one of the problems.

In my books I try to deal with some of these topics. I am absolutely aware that Ebby’s way of dealing with it is only one of so many, and it also isn’t always right. There are many different ways to handle these experiences. The reactions of Ebby’s friends are also not always correct, just like the reactions of people in real life are not always perfect. I worked with survivors of sexual abuse while writing the book, in order to approach the subject in the most realistic way possible. But everyone’s way is unique, and Ebby’s way is just that – her way, with all the mistakes and insecurites all of us have to deal with.

I can only encourage all of you:
Dare to be loud. Dare to voice your opinion. Never be silent in the face of injustice.
Because only together can we make sure that our voices are heard and might lead to a change.

Consent is not only important – consent is mandatory!