“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself.” ~ Harvey Fierstein
Derek Sawyer, of 'Violated' by Jamie Fessenden, was bullied throughout his childhood by his father and his “best friend” Victor, who is unfortunately now his boss. Victor continues to bully Derek as an adult. Derek constantly overlooks it and makes excuses for Victor's bad behavior. With Derek's history, it's not surprising his betrothed, Tim, is a pushy, whiny little man, whom Derek always caters to; it is sad. Tim also bullies Derek, tries to make him feel like less of a man. This, in itself, is bad enough, but both men betray Derek's trust in them. As his whole world crumbles, it's fortunate that his next door neighbor, Russ, is there to catch him when he falls.
Rape can happen to anyone, but in Derek's case, he is already at a psychological disadvantage. Derick received years of negative conditioning from his stepfather, telling Derrick the usual macho stuff—men don't cry; toughen up; don't be such a sissy—but the most damaging message was to tell Derick if he ever let anyone penetrate him, it would make him a faggot, which had to be the most disgusting thing anyone could ever be in young Derick's eyes. That particular gem of idiocy is ingrained so deeply, it colors every relationship Derick has, including his present one with Tim. Even putting up with Tim's whims is worth it because Derick is reassured that he'll never have to worry about who is on top. Placating Tim is a full-time job. Also, doing everything for Tim gives Derick the feeling of being in control. Meeting Russ is both comforting and confusing. Derek begins to realize how different things could be in a relationship than the one he has with Tim. Derek can confide in Russ. He can just be himself.
When Victor rapes Derick, the protective layers he's built over his lifetime dissolve at an alarming rate, leaving Derick empty and terrified. When Victor began his assault, Derick froze; he couldn't comprehend what was happening. Being drunk on top of it only exacerbated the situation since he couldn't react fast enough to stop what was happening. Derick knew Victor could be crude and aggressive at times, but he never dreamed Victor could treat Derick in such a horrible manner; worse yet, that he could ignore it and pretend it was no big deal afterward! Even thought Derick scrambles to move on and forget it, it's impossible. Trauma is like an onion. Each time a layer is removed, there's another one under it to deal with. In order to get to the main issue, each layer has to be examined and dealt with before one is able to deal with the real problem. Many times Derick pushes when he should pull. He rejects ideas that, in his mind, make him even weaker, like accepting Russ's help until he felt this was holding him down. Derick's PTSD is horrible. He can't sleep; he is afraid of the dark; Derick feels paranoid and unsafe all the time, and the nightmares he has are worse than when it happened. The thing is, everyone can try to help, offer suggestions, etc., but Derick is the only one who can reclaim his self-confidence and heal his soul.
This book was not easy to read, but is so marvelously written that I became deeply invested in the events. The main characters, Derek and Russ, are so well drawn that I couldn't help but want to help them; and, of course, I loved their dogs, who are the best medicine for everyone at any time. Sometimes we need to be made aware of terrible things in order to bring about the necessary changes. Male rape is the most under-reported crime there is and the trauma involved is just as damaging to a man, if not more so. There's such a stigma attached to it, men would rather suffer, like Derick does, and lose everything just so they don't have to endure the ridicule they may receive if they report it. Instead of dealing with it and becoming a survivor, they remain a victim forever and it's heartbreaking. Although it concerns an unsavory topic, I highly recommend you read this book.
If you appreciate being educated—reaching a better understanding of a very misunderstood topic—along with a hard-earned love story which still manages to be touching and even lighthearted at times, then you may enjoy this story. Thanks, Jamie, for having the courage to write about a difficult but vitally important subject. If it helps even one man know he's not alone, then the story is a huge success.