I knew “We Believe You” was a difficult book to get through since it’s dedicated to stories of sexual assault on college campuses far and wide.Though the content was heavy, I can say it is one of the most rewarding books I have read.
Split into five parts, the book written by political activists Annie E. Clark and Andrea L. Pino opens with “Part I—Before.” This part introduces us to the people in the stories before their assaults. Some people share their names, but many remain anonymous.
“Part II—How It Happened” is the most difficult part of the book to get through, for obvious reasons. The stories in Part I are continued here, and we learn about the assaults, some at great length and others in less than a page.
“Part III—Trauma and Betrayal” details what happened after these assaults. Clark, Pino and their fellow survivors drive home the point that though the actual assaults were awful and traumatic, many survivors feel the way they were treated by their schools and law enforcement was worse.
Clark and Pino’s greatest success with “We Believe You,” aside from creating something important that will help victims of sexual assault, is that they are not only saying sexual assault on college campuses needs to stop, but that when it does happen, it needs to be taken seriously by the college administration.
“Part IV—Healing and Everyday Activism” continues the stories of the survivors, how they all healed or are healing and how some became activists.
In this part, we are introduced to Stephanie Canales, a former Fresno State student, who tells her story of sexual assault. Her story, “Women’s Studies Built Me,” details how a women’s studies course at Fresno State was a pivot point in her life and ultimately motivated her to seek help, heal and become an advocate.
As someone who has taken a few women’s studies courses and who constantly recommends them to everyone, I felt a sense of understanding reading Canales’ story.
“Part V—Declarations of Independence” is the final part of the book and focuses on the small and large ways survivors are fighting back. Some fight back by speaking to their kids about consent. Some create art. Some get tattoos. Some go back to college. Some hold protests. But all are fighting back.
“We Believe You” wraps up with a “Rights and Resources” section that offers information including what to do immediately after experiencing violence, further resources and organizations that can help you and an affirmation for all survivors that: “You are not alone. It’s not your fault. We believe you.”
24/7 National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline: 1-800-656-4673