Keep Me Posted!

Sign me up for the latest news from Penguin Teen, including new books, special offers, and promotions.

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: SING Until Your Lungs Give Out, an essay by E.K. Johnston

SHARE

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and one of the books we’re using to start a conversation is Exit, Pursued by a Bear, which follows the difficult decision high schooler Hermione Winters faces after being assaulted at cheer camp. Today, author E.K. Johnston shares another story – this one her own – and an important message to remember.

 

(I was going to blog about something else for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but then the Jian Ghomeshi verdict came down—and was as disappointing as expected. So here I am, writing angry again. I’m so sick of being “timely.” I want Exit, Pursued by a Bear to be dated ASAP.)

 

I don’t tell this story to very many people (congrats, Internet. You’ll be persons five though a billion!).

The guy who assaulted me was singing when he did it.

I was perfect, of course. It was the middle of a room full of people. I had plenty of witnesses. They all heard me say “No,” and “Don’t,” and “Stop.” They didn’t know I had frozen completely. They only saw me when I thawed.

Meanwhile, I’d forgotten everything. I was bigger than him. I could have thrown my weight forward and got free of his hold. I didn’t do that. I stood there while he sang and wouldn’t move his hands. And then, finally, I snapped.

There’s a bit at the end of Miss Congeniality where Sandra Bullock has to improvise a talent at the last minute, and so she does a self-defense demonstration on Benjamin Bratt. I forgot almost all of that. I forgot the part where she tells you how to brace, how to pull, how to use your hip as a lever. But there’s one more thing after that.

He was singing. And I remembered how to sing.

 

Solar plexus (my elbow, as hard as I could, and he leaned back which gave me space to turn around.)

Instep (with my steel-toed boots. He let go. I could have stopped. I didn’t.)

N (as my knee was coming up, I realized that I’d forgotten what the N was, but it didn’t matter because)

Groin (he went down like a sack of bricks, and couldn’t even writhe on the floor.)

 

(N is for “nose”, btw. It’s probably for the best that I forgot. I would have broken his whole face.)

When I was throwing up in the bathroom a few moments later, I was furious with myself. I wasn’t mad because I’d hurt him (he couldn’t work the next day). I was mad because I had instinctively apologized.

(Did I over-react? Yes. Would I do it again? I REALLY WOULD. Though if I did it again, I would not apologize.)

There is a part of me in every book, in every character. I gave Hermione four-and-a-half minutes of self-doubt and loathing and no dignity or self-control, all set to a goddamn power ballad. She didn’t do what she was supposed to either. She didn’t scream.

But later, later, I let her remember how to sing. The good way. With her voice and her heart, and not with her knees and elbows and fingernails.

Because you don’t do what you’re supposed to. There is no “supposed to.” There’s a moment where you’re very, very scared, and sometimes the moment swallows you and sometimes you claw your way through it. What I want, more than I want almost anything else, is for there to be a person there who throws a rope. A person who cheers you on. A person who boosts you up. And then, when you are out of the hole, I want a whole freaking arena of people who believe you. No matter what you did when it happened.

I’d settle for a decent justice system.

Until then—and for as long as people call my novel “timely” —I will use my voice and I will use my knees, and I will sing.

 

Thank you for sharing, E.K.

 

Learn more about Exit, Pursued by a Bear.

 

Find more books to start the conversation with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#AuthorSpotlight

Everything You Need to Know About THINGS I’M SEEING WITHOUT YOU Author Peter Bognanni

Name: Peter Bognanni Novel: Things I’m Seeing Without You Available: October 3, 2017 About the book: Fans of Eleanor and Park and All the Bright Places will laugh and cry as they read this heartbreaking and life-affirming novel about love after the most profound loss. Seventeen-year-old Tess Fowler has just dropped out of high school. She can barely function after … Continued
See More

5 Reasons to Read The 5th Wave Series

  All three books in Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave series will be out in paperback tomorrow, and we think it’s the absolute perfect time to binge the entire series. Whether you’ve seen The 5th Wave movie, or are brand new to the story, here are five reasons that this should be the next series … Continued
See More

3 Things We Know About Mira from MIDNIGHT JEWEL Based on THE GLITTERING COURT

Midnight Jewel, the highly anticipated sequel to The Glittering Court is almost here, and we are getting excited to meet the star of the second book, Mira. We asked author Richelle Mead to help refresh our memories of what we already know about Mira. Here’s what she told us:   She disappears in the middle of the … Continued
See More

The Official Conspiracy of Us Series Recap *SPOILERS AHEAD*

Hey there! If you’re here, you’re probably a Conspiracy of Us reader, getting ready for The Ends of the World, book 3 in the Conspiracy series, to release on July 18, and need to remember all that’s happened leading our fearless characters to this point. Or maybe not. Maybe you’re bored and on social media. … Continued
See More

12 Authors Who Will Enhance Your Twitter Feed

Twitter-loving authors who will add a bit of oomph to your feed.
See More

LJ Alonge Shares the One Thing He Wishes He Knew as a Teen

Watch LJ Alonge, author of the Blacktop series, share the one thing she wishes he knew in high school!         Check out the books in the Blacktop series here!                                
See More

Everything You Need to Know About ROSIE GIRL Author Julie Shepard

Name: Julie Shepard Novel: Rosie Girl Available: July 11, 2017 About the book: After her father passes away, seventeen-year-old Rosie is forced to live with her abusive stepmom Lucy and her deadbeat boyfriend, Judd, who gives Rosie the sort of looks you shouldn’t give your girlfriend’s step-daughter. Desperate for a way out, Rosie would do just … Continued
See More

Susan Juby Shares 5 Things You Need to Know About THE FASHION COMMITTEE

Watch Susan Juby, author of The Fashion Committee share 5 things you need to know about her book!           Get your copy of The Fashion Committee here!                            
See More

Julie Israel Shares 5 Things You Need to Know About JUNIPER LEMON’S HAPPINESS INDEX

Watch Julie Israel, author of Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index, share 5 things to know about her debut novel!         Get your copy here!                                
See More

Dana Schwartz Shares the One Thing She Wishes She Knew as a Teen

Watch Dana Schwartz, author of And We’re Off share what she wishes she knew in high school!         Get your copy of And We’re Off here!                                
See More
BACK TO TOP

I can give you book recommendations.
Please enter your name and email address to begin chatting with me.



What is your date of birth?

START CHAT