After reading The Color Purple by Alice Walker, this student recalls an episode in which she, like the book’s protagonist Celie, was sexually assaulted. She was sleeping in the living room with her uncle Joe, whom she loved dearly, and her younger brothers. Suddenly, in the middle of the night, she felt someone touch her and realized that her uncle was molesting her, making her own body feel dirty. While she wanted to cry, she found herself unable to do anything. When he got up for a glass of water, she moved to the couch and her uncle asked her what was wrong. Even though she wanted to, she could not scream or talk to anyone.
The description of this student’s experience of sexual assault captures the way in which such invasive acts often take place in safe environments and are perpetrated by trusted individuals. The seeming normalcy of the action contributes to leaving the student feeling helpless and lost, unable to figure out how to react or where to seek help.
The next day, her uncle babysat her and her younger brothers, but she refused to do anything he said. He hadn’t destroyed her own views about herself, but he had destroyed the only thing she believed in: him. When he apologized, she felt that he was sincere in believing that he had done nothing wrong. When her mother came home, she told her what happened and has never had the same relationship with her uncle as she did before. Using Celie as an example, this student realizes that she too will draw courage from the difficult situation she has experienced and will bravely continue to live and find joy in life.
The student shows strength and self-confidence in her capacity to trust that she has done nothing wrong and that nothing that happened should affect her self-worth. While it remains ambiguous whether her uncle will ever learn from this experience, since he seems unable to admit that he did anything wrong, this student’s ability to tell her mother about what happened allows her to feel validated in what she experienced.