“I was victimized, but I refuse to be called a victim.
I’ve been sad, but I won’t let anyone feel sorry for me anymore.
I’ve been raped, but I will never let that define who I am.”
These are the words of Monika Korra – athlete, activist and rape survivor – and yet, this could be the mantra of anyone who has lived through trauma, struggled with adversity, or felt overwhelmed by life’s circumstances.
I’ve had this book on my nightstand since last year. Why has it taken me so long to get through Kill the Silence? The story is absolutely compelling, it is well written, Monika Korra’s honesty is raw, and right to the point. Whenever I choose my next book for review, I’m usually looking for content that is relevant to YOU, my readers, and new books that have something to do with healthy living.
I chose this book because the title and abstract hit close to home – because I’ve personally experienced trauma and pain (physical, emotional and spiritual) related to being a victim of violence. And it occurred to me that so much dis-ease in the clients that I see, and in my personal life, has it’s origin in un-addressed trauma, wounds that are deep and unhealed, and the resulting warped self-perceptions that we subject ourselves to as a result of being a victim of violent crime.
Kill the Silence is an incredibly healing book for anybody who has faced adversity. You don’t have to be a rape victim, necessarily, to relate to Monika’s PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) that disrupted her sleep, strained her relationships, suppressed her immune system, and resulted in hyper-vigilance and paranoia.
What if you were totally happy with your life, and consider yourself perfectly healthy, and one day your dreams, your ambitions, your health was totally disrupted? Monika Korra was the picture of the ideal athlete and student: she had Olympic dreams, she left her home in Norway to take advantage of a full-scholarship at Southern Methodist University in Texas, she was a straight-A student. One night, she was leaving a party with her friends when a black suburban pulled up in front of them and abducted her at gun-point. She was beaten and brutally raped by three men, and left for dead on the side of the road – naked, in the middle of the night, in an unfamiliar neighborhood, in December.
After the rape, she could hardly sleep or eat. She barely left her dorm room, she couldn’t answer the phone. She struggled to get past the paranoia that her attackers were waiting around the corner, or on the other side of the door, or even hiding in her closet. “Part of my sleeplessness was self-inflicted.” she admits,
“The first few nights after the rape, I woke in the middle of the night hyperventilating and with my pulse racing. I was unsure of where I was; even when I reached out and felt Robin (her boyfriend at the time) by my side, that feeling of dislocation didn’t immediately end. As much as I tried to block them, thoughts snuck past my defenses about whether the Worst One, the Boss, and the Weak One (the names she gave her attackers), singly, in pairs, or all together, were in the apartment. I’d lie awake, trying to summon the courage to get out of bed. But I could almost feel someone gripping my calf when I moved my foot tentatively toward the floor.”
The journey of her recovery is heartbreaking, inspiring, remarkable. I found myself in tears because she had to miss important track events because she was too ill, or had to appear in court. I shared her impatience at the Justice System – hoping, waiting, praying for an end to the nightmares. I struggled with her in therapy, trying to make sense of her new identity, creating new goals, facing new challenges. I felt her meekness in having to rely so much on friends and family to understand, to be present with her wildly vacillating emotional states, and to stick with her through her recovery.
Most of all, I was struck by the almost ruthless courage she possesses in telling her story. Monika Korra is a competitive athlete to the core, and recovering from being raped is no different than a track meet. She was determined – from the moment she realized that somehow she had escaped with her life – to become a better and stronger version of herself, and to give this pivotal, life-changing event meaning by sharing her experiences with others.
“Nationally, 60 percent of rapes go unreported; 97 percent of rapists never spend a day in jail. I was both troubled and grateful to learn those two facts. I knew how lucky I was that the men who’d assaulted me were arrested, tried, convicted, and incarcerated, but I didn’t realize until later just how rare that was.
Initially, my main focus was on getting out and doing public speaking engagements. That seemed a modest and attainable goal. I remembered how moved I was by the Take Back the Night presentation I attended, and I hoped that I could have an impact on people by sharing my story in the same way. I knew that the problem on college campuses was likely as bad as, if not worse than, it was outside them. I knew that I could relate well to women my age and younger, and that was my original focus.”
This book is strictly biographical: it is not a self-help or 12 step program to recovery. It is a story about a college sophomore who was raped, and how she overcame her own challenges to eventually help other women who are victims of violent crime to come forward, to not live in fear, to reclaim their lives. (She even created her own nonprofit, the Monika Korra Foundation, check it out!) If you know someone who has been victimized, this book will help you understand what they are going through. If you are a therapist, a counselor, an advocate, or anyone struggling with meeting daily challenges, Kill the Silence is a MUST READ.
For the three months that it took me to read the 307 pages of Kill the Silence – I went through a love/hate relationship with the book: I loved Monika for her courage in telling her story; I hated having to read the next painful stage in her recovery; I loved her relentless energy toward being better than a victim; I hated the perfectionist and obsessive tendencies it reflected in myself; I loved her triumphant healing journey; I hated how closely it mirrored what I need in my own healing journey. Finally, I feel like I can sit across the same table from the perpetrator, and look into his eyes again – as Monika did – and that I can surpass my 10 minute mile, not running away, but to bask in the pure joy of running for it’s own sake.
Do you love to read? Do you love to write? Do you really love free books and writing reviews on new releases? Blogging for Books is for YOU! I have discovered more wonderful books, new releases, and hidden literary gems through this free program than any other way. All you need is a blog (quick, easy and FREE on WordPress.com) and to sign up at bloggingforbooks.org! I gratefully received Kill the Silence: A survivor’s life reclaimed by Monika Korra from bloggingforbooks.org, and I can’t wait for the next one!