Friday, August 1, 2014
Last updated: 3 days ago

UBC creative writing grad to self-publish a book on sexual assault

Jen Roth. Photo courtesy Michael Cordiez

Creative writing graduate Jen Roth is writing a book on sexual assault after not being able to find anything comprehensive herself. Photo courtesy Michael Cordiez

When Jen Roth went hunting for a comprehensive book on sexual assault issues several years ago, she was disappointed to come up empty-handed at local libraries and bookstores. So she set out to write it herself.

Roth, a UBC creative writing graduate, said that while she has friends who have experienced violent sexual assault, what really drove her to write the book was the lamentable state of society’s views on sexual assault.

“Almost everyone I talked to thought it was somehow inherent in human nature, or that … it’s just something you need to accept instead of reject,” Roth explained.

The book, which is still being written, will explore society’s treatment of sexual assault through various paradigms. For instance, in the book, Roth examines the idea that women tend to make up sexual assaults for attention.

Roth also explores the idea of a “rape script”: the “script” that people, including police and others in positions of authority, expect sexual assault to conform to. Generally, such a prototypical situation involves an innocent and vulnerable woman being physically attacked by a bad man. When reported rapes or sexual assaults stray from this script, people are often turned away.

“A lot of sexual assault that is reported doesn’t go along with the lines of what a police officer believes sexual assault really is,” Roth said.

While her research has not focused on UBC specifically, Roth said that university campuses are hotspots for sexual assault — and great places to educate young people about such issues.

“Fraternities and sororities are great places to start sex ed. in general, and talk about consent,” Roth said. “If that’s not something that’s going on, there’s a lot that can go wrong,… especially in first- and second-years, being in such a sexually charged environment.”

Roth will be writing from a first-person perspective, drawing on interviews and existing research in the field. She plans to self-publish the book with pay-what-you-can pricing, and give free copies to institutions such as schools, community centres and libraries.

Roth is using the fundraising website gofundme.com to raise money for the book; she is currently about a third of the way toward her $15,000 goal. However, Roth noted that the more money she is able to raise, the more thorough the book can be.

Devoting so much time to writing and researching such a dark topic has been a battle, Roth said, but she’s starting to feel more hopeful.

“It was depressing before I started writing the book,” she explained. “I thought I would be destroyed by it, but instead I’ve been feeling less depressed.”

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