Liar Liar by Laurie Katz tells her story of being raped in her first year of college, and the school’s (mis)handling of the matter. It’s part of the Inspirational series by Trigger Publishing, a mental health publisher.
The book opens with the night she was raped. Afterwards, contrary to society’s expectations that someone go to ER for a rape kit and report to police, she followed the more human instinct to go home and spend hours in the shower.
The author shares that she was very drunk when she was raped by a guy she’d just met, and she remembers saying the words “you can take my bra off if you want to.” She’s very open about how much she questioned herself because of that, despite the bruises and bite marks on her body, and it comes up repeatedly through the book as she tells her story. She writes “I felt dirty. I felt responsible.”
From when she first reported the incident to student housing staff, it’s clear that the school’s handling of it was a disaster. She was told to deal with it through the school rather than going to police, and the school’s response is jaw-dropping. The VP of student affairs threw out an assortment of rape myths, and then told her “We might have to put a letter in your file so that if something like this ever happens again, we’ll know it’s ‘Liar Laurie.’” Laurie’s story is a perfect example of how a school should not to handle a student complaint.
The book also addresses the significant impact the rape had on Laurie’s mental health; she already had a history of depression from high school. Eventually, she was able to find a therapist who she says saved her life.
Laurie writes about the effect her assault had on her relationships with others. Describing an incident when a guy had pushed her boundaries, she wrote that she’d come to associate “nice guys” with ulterior motives. “Their niceness means the world owes them, and to ‘friendzone’ a ‘nice guy’ is the highest offense. ‘Nice guys’ aren’t really nice at all. ‘Nice guys’ have a similar mentality to rapists. It’s not about the phone number or the kiss or sex, it’s about needing power over another person.”
The book closes by addressing broader issues such as rape culture, victim blaming, and the fact that female students are warned what they should do to prevent being raped, but there’s no effort to tell anyone not to rape.
Liar Liar is well written, and offers an interesting insight into what it’s like to be sexually assaulted within the context of campus culture and universities that are more interested in protecting themselves than their students. This is clearly an important issue where there’s much left to be done. Just a short time before I read this book, I happened to read Chanel Miller’s victim impact statement as Emily Doe in the case against her rapist, Stanford swimmer Brock Turner. This isn’t an individual matter, it’s a cultural matter.
The only thing I struggled with while reading this book was that it was only loosely in chronological order. My own concentration is at a place where I sometimes wasn’t sure of the sequence of events, but the overall story was still clear, and I suspect it wouldn’t be a problem for someone who’s not operating at mashed potato brains level, where I am.
Aside from that minor issue, though, I thought the book was really well done, and Laurie’s story is one that needs to be heard.
Liar Liar is available on Amazon (affiliate link).
I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.