A Novel Debut

The Mockingbirds

A Remedy in Writing

Originally Published by InterviewHer.com on November 1, 2010

Author and Media Expert Daisy Whitney

“Talking about things is what helps us heal and recover from challenging times in life,” explains Daisy Whitney, host of New Media Minute and author of The Mockingbirds. Yet, many women feel silenced about sexual abuse – especially teens who have been date raped. Daisy Whitney just might change that with her new book. She knows a thing or two about overcoming obstacles and finding the strength to speak out.

Daisy Whitney is a talented writer and media expert with a thriving personal business and family. She’s also releasing her debut novel, The Mockingbirds, on November 2, 2010, which has already received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. Yet, her journey to success and “masterfully” written novel began with a hardship — one that changed her life and inspired her to write about date rape, vigilantism and academic politics.

Daisy Whitney was date raped when she was 19-years-old and she understands firsthand what it means to find her voice and the strength to press charges against her attacker. “I was a freshman in college at the time and am definitely a big believer in the power of speaking up.”

With the support of her friends Whitney pressed charges in her school’s justice system at Brown University. “In the early nineties we were starting to understand date rape,” said Whitney in an interview. “Institutions now have disciplinary systems that recognize sexual assault as a violation of the

code.”

Thankfully, her school handled Whitney’s case and she healed from the incident by being able to talk about it and find closure for herself. After receiving her degree, Whitney started her career in journalism as a reporter and later founded her own business as a reporter and media expert.

The Mockingbirds is the first in a series about a secret society in a private high school called Themis Academy. The protagonist,Alex, is sexually assaulted after a night of drinking. She struggles to remember what happened that night as she copes with her fear of the classmate who raped her. Her friends provide guidance when she realizes that she has been violated and abused. In her quest to heal, she encounters the Mockingbirds, a student-run justice system and she decides to press charges against her attacker.

The Mockingbirds, by Daisy Whitney

In this exciting and evocative book, Whitney captures the complexity of date rape with her narrative about Alex, an exceptional concert pianist who wants to pursue music at Juilliard. Whitney creates a powerful scenario, filled with realistic characters that show teens the trials of coping and the importance of finding empowerment after assault.

The novel comes at a crucial time. One in six women will become victims of sexual assault during their lifetime, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). Many of them are girls, ages 16-19. The California Coalition Against Sexual Assault estimates nearly half of reported cases of sexual assault and attempted rape are teens. “According to a study conducted by The Northern Westchester Shelter, with Pace Women’s Justice Center, about 83% of 10th graders said they would sooner turn to a friend for help with dating abuse than a teacher, counselor, parent or other caring adult,” said Whitney in an email.

For Daisy Whitney, speaking up and increasing awareness are not only key elements of her novel, they are also part of her business plan, turning her tragedy to triumph, while helping teens on the way.

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Shut Up

yell!

Image by kandyjaxx via Flickr

We’ve all faced it to some degree — one of those burdens of being a woman — sexual harassment. What happens when harassment becomes abuse? Where do we even draw the line between the two — isn’t verbal harassment still a form of assault?

Countless times I’ve been verbally attacked in public.  And, I say attacked because that’s exactly how it feels.  Someone is aggressively hurling words my way with the intent to make an impact.  I’ve agonized over questions like, “Do men think this is acceptable?” “What do they expect me to say back?” Are they trying to make me angry, scared, sad, or — worse yet — turned on? PLEASE. What the hell do they think they are doing and why does it happen so frequently?

I’d like to think since 1972 when Title IX was enacted, a law that prohibits sexual discrimination in the workplace and in education, we’d come a long way. Yet, harassment at work, school, in public — anywhere — is a form of discrimination.  When men say perverted things to women on the street they are saying it because they are women, not because they are a person. How is it any different from shouting a racial slur at someone? In my opinion, someone saying a sexual remark to me is the same as calling a black person the N-word. These forms of language are hurtful and discriminatory toward particular groups. There’s no difference and no way to stop either occurrence.

Why is there nothing you can do about harassment on the street? Even on sexual harassment support sites it defines the problem as: “unwanted and  unwelcome behavior, or attention, of a sexual nature that interferes with your life and your ability to function at work, home, or school. ” What about a woman’s right to walk on the street?

I asked a friend who works as a police officer for the NYPD about the safety of carrying pepper spray in my purse, in case harassment ever became a physical danger while walking a sketchy stretch of sidewalk on my way home.  He said I could carry pepper spray, but it’s tricky because unless the harasser or attacker actually hurts me, he could accuse me of assault with a weapon if he doesn’t touch me. So basically, he could chase me, with an attempt to cause injury, but if I act first, I could be charged with assault.

As I said before, where do we draw the line? Is sexual harassment protected by the First Amendment out in public?  Can women really be convicted of assault if they are attempting to protect themselves?  The biggest danger of these verbal attacks is the potential for them to become actions — rape, molestation, assault, and kidnapping. And the risk is high when the threats are made.

However, if our own government cannot even protect their female soldiers from sexual abuse from their comrades, how can we expect them to protect civilians like us too?  When do we stop being silent and take action to make the harassers shut up?

To report incidents and find support in New York City, check out Holla Back NYC, a group dedicated to supporting those who have been harassed on the street. And, to increase awareness about this problem, don’t forget to share your story below.

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