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Voices of the Survivors, by Patricia Easteal.

February 22, 2017

Voices of the Survivors, by Patricia Easteal. Melbourne, Australia: Spinifex Press, 1994.  262 pages.

4 stars

A powerful report on a survey into sexual abuse of Australian women, many of whom tell their own stories of pain, struggle and sometimes healing.

In 1992 Australian Broadcasting System aired a program, Without Consent, about sexual abuse.  Accompanying it was a questionnaire that women who had been abused were asked to answer.  Along with their answers, 2300 letters from women and 97 from men wrote letters and comments about their own experiences of abuse.  The responses to that questionnaire and the women’s accounts form the core of this book.  Patricia Easteal, with the Australian Institute of Criminology, has summarized the findings and provided context for the women’s own stories.  She has also published a large number of previous books, many of them about women and criminal justice.

All those connected with the original study and those at Spinifex Press are to be congratulated for the effort that went into the project and its publication.  Although the actual data was collected almost 20 years ago, too little has changed.  Conditions depicted here are all too common in many countries besides Australia. This book is part of a vital, ongoing effort to educate a wider swath of society about the damage caused by sexual assault. Some of the stories in the book are heart-wrenching, yet the problem continues.  Here women are able to give voice to their own stories and receive validation for what they have endured.  Hopefully their voices will allow other women to recognize sexual assault in their own lives and society will begin to take them more seriously.

This is a significant book, but it is not an easy book to read, partly because of the horrors being described.  In addition, many of the women’s accounts are short, and readers like myself had trouble relating to them.  For that reason I found Spinifex’s recent book, Prostitution Narratives, with its longer stories, even more effective in taking us inside the women who are suffering.  Still, this book has information we all need to understand the world we live in.  I recommend it widely.

And as always, thanks to Spinifex for providing us all with important books that help us understand the plights of women.


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