When I started writing thirty-some years ago, I never dreamed I would have reason to write "Tender Persuasion." Then I was a young wife and mother who had the world by the tail. Then came January 1, 1999, the day a man broke into my house and raped me on my living room floor. I had the typical reaction, I guess. This couldn't be happening to me. I was older then (42). I had married my second husband. I was overweight and not what I considered sexually attractive. Why would this...person want me? It took me a long time to realize, and accept the fact, that rape is not about sexual attraction. It's about power. This animal didn't force himself on me because he was attracted to me. He did it because he wanted me to feel powerless, filthy, and riddled with guilt.
Now, don't misunderstand me here. I am not the victim in "Tender Persuasion," and my husband isn't the hero--at least not in the book. He, too, carried me through the days, weeks, and months following the attack. It was also him who talked me into seeking rape counseling. That's where I met "Kaitlyn." She was my counselor. We were a couple of months into the sessions before she told me the basics of her story, and I couldn't get them out of my mind. What I suffered was nothing compared to what she went through. My attacker was with me for an hour. Hers was with her for eight. I was raped once. She was raped twelve times--and he cut her forty-two times. The mere thought put my own assault into perspective. You know that old saying that, no matter how bad you have it, someone else has it worse? Well, that's exactly the way "Kaitlyn's" story affected me. Don't get me wrong. I don't take my own rape lightly. I carried the guilt, the shame, for years and, to a certain extent, I still suffer from the effects of it today. "Kaitlyn," though, her story was incredible. It was almost unbelievable...and it had to be told.
I want you to understand one other thing. "Kaitlyn" did not tell me her story to somehow undermine what happened to me. She told me so I would understand that any rape could be overcome with love, understanding and support. A plaque on the wall in her office epitomizes that thought. It's now my epitaph, and it is also the dedication in "Tender Persuasion."
“Inner strength is the key to acceptance.
Understanding is the key to battling self-guilt.
Friends are the key to recovery,
And love is the key to life.”
"Kaitlyn" wrote those words. She has lived by those words, and now I live by them, too.
When I first started writing "Tender Persuasion," I didn't know if I was up to the task. How do you tell such a horrible story and turn it into a good thing? I wanted readers to gain strength from what Kaitlyn went through. I wanted other rape victims to see, as I had, that even the most brutal, humiliating experience in their lives could be conquered. But as the hours passed and more and more of her story was revealed, I was left numb with horror. Could I really put it down on paper? Could I really find the strength within myself to tell her story, and tell it well?
Yes, I decided. "Kaitlyn" had lived through it. If she could survive, if she could find reason to live after the most horrific eight hours of her life, then yes. I could find the strength, the compassion to tell her story.
That "story" wouldn't have been possible without "Marc." He was the one who plucked "Kaitlyn" out of the darkest place on earth and showed her that there was light at the end of the tunnel. His patience, his understanding, his love were the heart of the story. As I began writing, though, he came out on the page as too perfect. Readers would never believe this guy actually existed. So, I went back to "Kaitlyn" and asked a simple question. "Did he ever get mad?"
Her response was "Oh, yes"--and then the real "Marc" began to emerge. He was human. He was just a man--a man who loved "Kaitlyn" to death--and he began his "treatments", as she called them, with one goal in mind. He would get her to relax to his kiss, his touch, and, ultimately, he would convince her that she could love him.
DId it happen quickly? No. Did he become frustrated? Of course. Did he throw in the towel and say enough is enough? You bet he did. Did he attain his goal? Well, let me put it this way. "Marc and Kaitlyn" are still married today and have two children. Yes, there is life after rape.