Jessica Knoll, author of the best-selling novel Luckiest Girl Alive, revealed today on Lenny that the book was inspired by her gang rape as a teen.
The first person to tell me I was gang-raped was a therapist, seven years after the fact. The second was my literary agent, five years later, only she wasn't talking about me. She was talking about Ani, the protagonist of my novel, Luckiest Girl Alive, which is a work of fiction. What I've kept to myself, up until today, is that its inspiration is not.
In the essay, titled "What I Know," Knoll speaks out for the first time on the traumatic experience:
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.
Knoll told BuzzFeed about what she hopes readers take away from the essay and what the reaction to it has been so far:
I want readers to take away the idea that we don't have to be quiet about rape, which is something I did for a long time and I didn't understand that that's what gave this event so much power over me — not talking about it. It became something shameful that I had to hide, whereas talking about it gives me power, the power to tell my story, to use my own words, which is something I was never able to do before. I hope any woman or man reading this essay who has experienced something similar knows they don't have anything to be ashamed of and can talk about it.
The reaction has been overwhelming. I can't even keep up with all the messages on social media but I feel very responsible to respond to everyone. I'm hearing from a lot of women who have gone through similar experiences and I want to let them know that they're not alone, that they've been heard.
I'm incredibly grateful that there's been a shift in how we respond to women who speak up and tell their stories — we're still not where we should be yet, but compared to 17 years ago it's a huge shift. Back then, there was absolutely no way for me to talk about it, and I was shut down everywhere I turned when I tried, so I eventually shut down too. I'm very grateful for the brave women who told their stories and made me think that I could tell mine too, that I don't need to hide from or be ashamed of what happened to me. I am so encouraged by the women speaking up about rape, and honored to be one of them now — I hope more women speak up because the more we do, the more we change the idea of what rape and victim behavior looks like.