By happenstance, today marks five months until my memoir, Caged Eyes: An Air Force Cadet’s Story of Rape and Resilience, hits shelves. As my publicist said, “It’s go time,” and I can’t think of a more amazing way of celebrating than beginning my year here on The Debutante Ball.
To say this memoir has been a long time in the making is a comical understatement.
The first time I thought of writing a book, I hadn’t even finished living through what would ultimately become the full memoir. It was 2003, and I was a cadet at the Air Force Academy. The Academy was in the midst of one of the military’s most far-reaching scandals as six women were interviewing with national media and testifying in congress that they had been raped as cadets and punished for it. I knew the women. We had all been a part of an underground network of rape survivors. They had all been expelled; I was still struggling to make it to graduation.
Though the military instituted many structural changes after the media attention, I feared that the culture which blamed and silenced victims while protecting perpetrators wouldn’t truly change. The inherit nature of TV and magazines made for the perfect venue to build outrage over the issue, but even an entire Oprah episode didn’t allow for the complete, nuanced telling of the women’s stories. I first thought of writing a book because I wanted those who watched my friends on TV to fully step into our experiences in a way they weren’t able to in sixty minutes.
In the years that followed, my continuing motivation to write the memoir stemmed from meeting hundreds of other survivors – first as a veteran’s hospital patient, then as a victim advocate, and now as a memoirist. When I confessed the most humiliating parts of my story in therapeutic groups, invariably someone else would respond, “me too.” Those words, “me too,” saved me.
What I’ve learned is that sharing our stories, meeting each other with empathy, and ending the shame once put upon us is one of the ultimate forms of activism.
My path publication included years of learning the craft of creative writing (former math major over here!) as well as finding enough healing to be able to publicly share my story.
Publishing this memoir fills me with the full range of feelings – another understatement alert – but I believe the hardest things in life, the things that make us the most vulnerable, are often the most rewarding, and that’s what I’m hoping for Caged Eyes.
It’s an absolute honor to follow in the footsteps of Louise, Jennifer, Heather, Abby, and Aya. I can’t wait to navigate this year with fellow Debutantes Crystal, Amy, Tiffany, and Jenni. I’m already struck by them and their stories; I think you will be too!