Real-Life Nowhere Girls: Background information when reading The Nowhere Girls

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The Nowhere Girls

by Amy Reed

The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed X
The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2017, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2019, 432 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Cynthia C. Scott
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About this Book

Real-Life Nowhere Girls

This article relates to The Nowhere Girls

Print Review

According to the New York branch of the National Organization for Women, 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attackers. 60% of those assaults are never reported. Only 16.3% of men who are accused of rape will be prosecuted with only 3% spending a single day in jail. 18.8% of black women will report sexual assault in their lifetimes while 60% will experience rape before they turn eighteen. 13% (214,000) of lesbian women, 46% (1.5 million) of bisexual women, and 17% (1.9 million) of heterosexual women will report rape in their lifetimes.

While these staggering statistics apply to the New York area, rape and the toxic culture which tolerates it has cracked through the prism of silence in the past few years. But news of famous men being caught harassing or sexually assaulting women prove we still have a long way to go. Amy Reed's YA novel The Nowhere Girls takes a crack at breaking the silence behind this epidemic. Her story of teen girls who resist rape culture might seem like the stuff of fiction, but there are real organizations worldwide that help teens do just that.

In Toronto, Black Women in Motion is an organization that helps to empower black girls and young women by hosting WAAR: Weekend of Action Against Rape. The 2-day conference engages 17-24 year old participants in workshops, panel discussions, and activities about ways they can resist sexual violence and rape culture. In 2016, two Long Island, New York high-school students, Andrea Gonzales and Meghan Callahan, entered the discussion of sexual assault and consent when they took photographs of Gonzales with messages like "no means no" and "my body, my rules" written on her bare back for a photography class assignment on liberty. Like the activists in The Nowhere Girls, their assignment ran into controversy for the way they chose to express themselves.

One group that is most similar to the Nowhere Girls is The Red Brigade Trust, an organization in Uttar Pradesh, India that is tackling that country's rape culture. Founded by Ajay Patel and Usha Vishwakarma, a teacher and survivor of sexual harassment, the Red Brigade is a vigilante group of teen girls who take to the streets to protect girls and women from harassment, groping, and catcalling. Founded before the 2012 horrific gang rape and fatal beating of a woman on a private bus in New Delhi which ignited international condemnation and brought sexual assault into the public consciousness, the Red Brigade takes action by confronting the men with their behavior and, if necessary, publicly berating them if they refuse to stop.

The group consists of girls, each of whom are survivors of sexual assault. They take classes on martial arts to defend themselves and wear traditional clothes in red and black which symbolize their struggle - red for danger and struggle and black for protest. The girls have been successful in helping to change some of the behavior of the men in the street of their hometown of Lucknow, though they still face a tremendous uphill battle. The Red Brigade hosts workshops related to self-defense (Mission One Million), gender discrimination, and "Good-Touch-Bad-Touch." The organization also provides legal help to women who are survivors of rape and other attacks.

According to an Al Jazeera article, in 2015 alone, 34,651 rapes were reported in India. 95.5% of the victims knew their attackers. And these are conservative estimates as many more rape cases go unreported. There is no quick or easy fix for the barriers women and young girls face. But the girls of The Red Brigade, who only use violence as a last resort and even then only a slap, are finding their own voices and sense of empowerment.

As the rampant misogyny found in social media and recent high-profile cases of sexual assault show, rape culture is deeply entrenched in the public psyche and it will take lifetimes to root out. However, these groups prove that girls and women can refuse to remain victims by raising their voices and demanding to be heard.

Article by Cynthia C. Scott

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Nowhere Girls. It originally ran in November 2017 and has been updated for the July 2019 paperback edition.

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