The Association for Mormon Letters
…..by Katie Parker
I was pleasantly surprised by Weyland’s new book, about a girl who becomes the victim of date rape. I had been worried about how this master of feel-good stories would handle this difficult subject. And the “teaser” in some of the promotional literature for this book didn’t help. This is what it quoted from the story:
He came around in front of the couch and grabbed her arms and lifted her to a standing position. ‘Come, see my shirts.’ Brittany felt alarms going off in her head. Something was wrong. Derek had become demanding. She felt like she should get out of there.
Upon reading the teaser, I was worried that the rape would arise out of the blue, after Derek had made this simple demand for her to come see his shirts. Or that after the alarms went off in Brittany’s head, she’d continue to be overcome by the Holy Ghost,and would have to completely ignore these alarms for the resulting rape to occur.
I was wrong.
While the rape scene is not excessively violent, it is realistically drawn and we have enough of the picture to feel that this rape could have taken place in a real moment in time. Here’s a little bit more of the scene:
They listened to the music while playing Nintendo. Derek was much better at it than she was. After a couple of games, he suggested she practice a few minutes by herself and then he’d take her on again. She was leaning forward o the couch, trying to concentrate on the video game. He moved over closer to her. She could smell whatever he’d put on his hair. He touched her vest. “Is this new?” he asked.
“Yeah, it is. I got it today.”
“It looks great. The jeans too.”
“Thanks. I got them today too.
“They’re not tight enough,” he said with a teasing grin.
“They’re fine, Derek.”
“You didn’t say anything about my new shirt,” he said.
“Oh, sorry. It’s real nice, Derek.”
He touched the back of her neck lightly. “It came all the way from California.”
She leaned forward to avoid his touch. “You told me.”
“You want to see the others?”
“Yeah, sure,” she said, trying to concentrate on the game.
“They’re in my room. C’mon, I’ll show ‘em to you.”
Brittany shook her head and nodded to the TV monitor. “Bring ‘emout. Look, I’m doing better this time. I’m pretty sure that in a few minutes I’ll be good enough to beat you.”
“Forget it. Nobody beats me at anything.” He went to his bedroom and came out a minute later wearing another new shirt. She glanced up from her video game.
“I like that one too,” she said.
“How do you like this?” he asked, taking off his shirt and standing in front of her bare-chested.
“Derek, quit fooling around, okay? Come here and see how well I’m doing now. I’m almost on level two.” He came around behind the couch, she thought to watch her play Nintendo, but instead he bent over her and kissed her on the back of her neck. (77-78)
The “come see my shirts” part comes in a few paragraphs later,when Derek is still trying to get Brittany to come into his room to see the rest of his new shirts. She still refuses. He becomes more and more persistent, and she continues to resist,but he finally just forces her into his room:
“Let’s just go upstairs (where other people are),” she pleaded. She broke free and started upstairs, but she had taken only two steps when he caught up with her and once again wrapped his arms around her.
“We’ll go upstairs in a minute, but first,just let me show you my new shirts, okay?” All pleasantness had gone out of his voice, an he was now behind her, pushing her toward his room. (80)
The rape is described simply, two paragraphs later: “And then he raped her.” But in the next chapter, after the fact, we see that he hit her several times and that she is bruised on her face and ribs.
I hope I didn’t spoil the story for anyone by quoting the juiciest part, but I think it’s significant that Weyland carries this scene off so well. It’s one of the most vivid depictions (and there’s more of it than I quoted here) of impending moral danger that I know of in LDS literature, especially in that published by Deseret Books. And I think it’s important to tell it like it is. Events that lead up to unchastity are so often glossed over among us Mormons, and issues of date rape and abuse are only now being discussed.
I’m glad that someone, especially a giant like Weyland, is telling it more like it is. That is, it didn’t just happen out of nowhere, but Brittany didn’t get raped because she was stupid. She tried to resist, but she naively tried to do so without being unpleasant. She had no reason to think before this that Derek would do this to her. And she didn’t get raped because she was asking for it. She clearly wasn’t promoting the idea.
Brittany’s story begins with regular boy-girl banter, Weyland-style, between herself and a nice guy, Craig. We get to know Brittany, and we see that she has some insecurities, but she’s headed down the right path and the future will be bright. But things don’t work out with Craig, and she finds herself feeling obligated to accept a date with Derek. Derek obviously does not share Brittany’s high standards, but he’s not terrible. He’s actually a fairly pleasant guy, and he respects Brittany’s desire to see a Disney movie instead of something R-rated. Brittany even thinks, during the course of the date, that she’ll be glad when it’s over, and she probably won’t tell her mother about all of it, but maybe Derek just needs a little help. That,of course, is before he rapes her.
The scenes that follow the rape portray Brittany’s honest reactions. She’s scared, she’s hurt, she’s upset, she’s distrustful, she’s afraid she did something wrong. I don’t know exactly what a rape victim feels; I would guess there would be more anger than shown here, but I don’t know. At any rate, it’s clearly an emotional mess of a time for Brittany. Fortunately her mother is very strong and supportive, and after a hospital visit and a talk with the police, Brittany begins counseling with a therapist and also visiting with the bishop. I think that the talks she has with the adults are well-done, and illustrate the pain and confusion that she would feel. But after a few of these, her recovery’s almost too easy and complete. Not every girl would have such wonderful adults available to help her through this, and perhaps this is a weakness of the book. Once again, the happy tidy ending prevails.
Still, I think that the point of the book is to show that date rape does happen, it can happen to nice girls who aren’t looking for trouble, it can make a mess of things, but there is still hope. And there’s definitely a lot of hope provided here, after the mess. Maybe this book will give hope to someone who can’t get it from any other source.