Writing About the Taboo

People have asked me how hard it was to write about child sexual abuse in A Work of Art. It’s a touchy subject—raw and often shameful to the abused and not something most people like to think about. But when I sat down to write about this painful subject, I found it freeing. Just as Tera, the main character in my book, finds therapy in her painting, I found therapy in my writing. So I think it was harder to imagine writing about child sexual abuse than it was to actually write it.

Because many victims never report abuse, it’s difficult to quantify how often child sexual abuse occurs, but here are some statistics:

* Most professionals in the field use rates that vary from 8% to 20%. The median age for reported sexual abuse is nine years old. (Children’s Assessment Center)

* Adult retrospective studies show that one in four women and one in six men were sexually abused before the age of 18. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2006)

* Another source says that as many as one in three girls and one in seven boys will be sexually abused at some point in their childhood. (Briere, J., Eliot, D.M. Prevalence and Psychological Sequence of Self-Reported Childhood)

So it’s clear that child sexual abuse happens quite a bit—yet hardly anyone talks about it. That’s why I felt it was important to write A Work of Art. Many victims of child sexual abuse want to forget it ever happened. Others want to deny that it is happening—even when it’s happening under their very noses. I wanted to create awareness. And I wanted to let victims know they’re not alone in their pain. If A Work of Art does either of those things, then I accomplished what I set out to do.

Melody Maysonet

Melody has been an English teacher, editor, and ghostwriter. Now she devotes most of her time to writing fiction for young adults. She lives in Coconut Creek, Florida, with her husband and son. Her debut novel, A Work of Art (Merit Press) is out in stores now.

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