The Year After

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A couple months ago, Chapel Hill native Ashley Warner, author of The Year After: A Memoir, spoke on WCHL about her book and held a reading at local bookstore Flyleaf Books, which was also a benefit night for the Center. Warner’s book is a beacon for those who are adrift, for those who feel like they are alone. And she is garnering recognition for her compelling testimony. As a winner of the 2014 Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Memoir and a finalist in the 2014 International Book Awards for Best Non-Fiction Narrative, Warner is gaining a powerful voice in the literary world and offers an inside look into the recovery process, the details of which are often unknown to those who have not directly experienced interpersonal violence.

In the book, Warner talks about her assault, which took place over 20 years ago. It was a book that Warner wished she had had at the time of the attack, because it seems more manageable when you know you’re not alone. “It’s really comforting to know how other people have handled it,” she said. She wanted to truly communicate the ups and downs that she experienced, and that’s why it took so long to write. For those who have experienced interpersonal violence or know someone who has, it is all too true that recovery does not happen overnight, nor is there some magic step-by-step plan to make everything ‘better.’

“It [sexual assault] becomes something that influences you for many years, and I think people need to know that the recovery is a really lengthy process…. It’s something that you need to go through, not around,” Warner said. Too many times, survivors do not get the necessary help they need to fully recover, to be able to work through the healing process. For Warner herself, it took years for her to mentally mend. Sometimes, it was too triggering for her to even write about the assault, but confronting it head on was what helped her – that, and early support. “A really positive boost for a good recovery process is early support, early intervention, early understanding,” Warner said. And it’s true. Allowing the problems to fester just beneath the surface helps no one but the attacker – this allows them extend their control to their victims’ day-to-day life.

And that’s what we’re combatting. Ashley Warner stands as a woman who survived her assault, as someone who saw her attacker get sentenced, which is something that, unfortunately, is not often the case. It’s often difficult to speak out, to confront the problem and let authorities know what has happened. Sadly, there are so many cases that show survivors that they may not be believed, or worse, that they may be blamed. But Warner, along with the Orange County Rape Crisis Center, the Compass Center, and other organizations worldwide, are working to end this culture of don’t ask, don’t tell. “We have a long way to go but we’re in the process of making sure that that problem is diminished,” Warner stated.

If you see something, say something. And, most importantly, listen. It is all too common to want to offer advice, but the vital necessity in supporting survivors is listening. Warner’s memoir about her trauma and healing process is an empowering read for those who have dealt with their own recovery, an enlightening one for those who do not know much about the process, and a comforting one for those who are presently dealing with their assault.

Alex Smith has been an Office Volunteer at the Center since July. She is a senior Communications major at UNC-Chapel Hill with a passion for writing and English literature. 

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