Jessica Knoll was raped, and she won’t deny it any more. Read her piece | books | Hindustan Times
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Jessica Knoll was raped, and she won’t deny it any more. Read her piece

Jessica Knoll, the author of the best-selling novel Luckiest Girl Alive posted an essay online Tuesday saying that the gang rape in high school her character suffered was based on an assault in her own life.

books Updated: Mar 30, 2016 10:52 IST
Jessica Knoll

“There’s no reason to cover my head. There’s no reason I shouldn’t say what I know.”(LennyLetter.com)

Jessica Knoll, the author of the best-selling novel Luckiest Girl Alive posted an essay online Tuesday saying that the gang rape in high school her character suffered was based on an assault in her own life.

Knoll, writing on a website for young women that’s co-managed by director-writer Lena Dunham, said that since the book came out last year she has deflected questions about similarities between herself and the protagonist, TifAni.

“I’ve been running and I’ve been ducking and I’ve been dodging because I’m scared,” she wrote on www.lennyletter.com .

“I’m scared people won’t call what happened to me rape because for a long time, no one did. But as I gear up for my paperback tour, and as I brace myself for the women who ask me, in nervous, brave tones, what I meant by my dedication, What do I know? I’ve come to a simple, powerful revelation: everyone is calling it rape now. There’s no reason to cover my head. There’s no reason I shouldn’t say what I know.”

Read: Minor rape victim raped again in Jamshedpur hospital by security guard

Knoll, a former editor at Cosmopolitan, wrote in her essay that readers had been curious about the book’s dedication: “To all the TifAni FaNellis of the world, I know.”

“It means I know what it’s like to not belong, I waffle in response to readers, usually women whose albatrosses I can sense, just as they sense mine,” she said. “What I don’t add: I know what it’s like to shut down and power through, to have no other choice than to pretend to be OK. I am a savant of survivor mode.”

“I’ve spent the past year throwing bum grenades like that and running for cover. I dodge left by pointing to all the ways in which my fictional protagonist and I differ. Ani’s heritage is Italian, mine is German. Ani is planning a wedding in Nantucket, I got married in New Jersey (which, if you’ve read the book, you know would not have flown with Ani). I’ve been running and I’ve been ducking and I’ve been dodging because I’m scared. I’m scared people won’t call what happened to me rape because for a long time, no one did. But as I gear up for my paperback tour, and as I brace myself for the women who ask me, in nervous, brave tones, what I meant by my dedication, What do I know?, I’ve come to a simple, powerful revelation: everyone is calling it rape now. There’s no reason to cover my head. There’s no reason I shouldn’t say what I know.”

“I’m trying, but I’m rusty at speaking the truth. The day I pitched this essay, a woman approached me at a book event in New Jersey. ‘You said you did some research for your book,’ she said. ‘Did you interview a rape victim?’

I told her I had researched the other major event in my book.

‘So how did you—’ she stopped. “I mean, it was just so real. What you said about not screaming until it was over? Until you knew you were safe?’ I started to internally chant Oh f***, oh f***, oh f*** at the same time tears sprang to her eyes. I’m also rusty with compassion. I’ve been conditioned to prefer an economy-sized bag of chocolate-covered pretzels to that. ‘Because that almost happened to me,’ she said.

F*** it. ‘Something similar to what happened to Ani happened to me,’ I responded for the first time ever, and she grabbed my wrist and held it tight, blinking tears, while I smiled brightly, insisting in a foreign falsetto, ‘I’m fine! It’s fine!’

I’m not fine. It’s not fine. But it’s finally the truth, it’s what I know, and that’s a start.”

Read: Because of false complaints, genuine rape victims viewed with jaundiced eye: Bombay HC

Knoll’s novel has been optioned for a feature film, with Reese Witherspoon expected to produce.

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