Interview with Anne Cassidy – No Shame Blog Tour

The powerful companion to NO VIRGIN.

From the author of the critically acclaimed, LOOKING FOR JJ, shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize in 2004 and the Carnegie Medal in 2005.

Stacey Woods has been raped and now she has to go through a different ordeal – the court trial. But nothing in life it seems is black and white and life is not always fair or just. Suddenly it seems that she may not be believed and that the man who attacked her may be found not guilty . . . if so Stacey will ned to find a way to rebuild her life again…

Interview with Anne Cassidy

Why did you want to write Stacey’s story?
There had been several cases in the news of teenage (and older) girls who had been raped by men who took advantage of the victim’s vulnerability, either because of their age or circumstances. I wanted to examine a single instance where this might happen. A teenage girl wanting to have sex with a boy she liked a lot, and being ‘passed across’ to someone else. Stacey’s life was important to me; what were her hopes and dreams? Who did she care for? What were the difficult parts of her life? And how these things led up to her being manipulated and used.

What was researching the trial procedures for No Shame like?
I did this in two ways. I researched court procedures on the internet, there’s lots of information on CPS websites, Rape Crisis and that of the Metropolitan Police. I also had a contact who worked in criminal law and I leant on him for some details. I was also a jury member on two occasions so I had memories of that. It’s important to get these things right but more important is to get the emotional journey of the main character right. Sometimes accuracy has to give way to that.

How much do media influence sex and behaviour in your opinion?
I’m no expert on this but when I was a teenager I was hugely influenced by what I saw on television, movies and in newspapers and magazines. I remember when I first became aware of boys I noticed (in films) that women sat quietly, looking beautiful so I tried to do the same. I became completely tongue tied when with the opposite sex and ended up having nothing to say for myself. I was afraid to speak in case it cracked my make-up. It took a while to shake that off. Young people today are bombarded with images/messages about how they should look/behave/feel. They have a tough time.

When someone uses the statements “asking for it” and “personal responsibility” what is your reaction?
Nobody asks to be assaulted, attacked or murdered. There are people though who look for signs of vulnerability in women or men and use these as excuses for their crimes. We must not accept any judgements that place the responsibility for a crime on the victim. Full stop.

(Follow up) What should society’s reaction be?
Condemnation. Unfortunately sometimes the area of sexual consent is presented as a grey area. If a woman or man is drunk for example. This is not a grey area. The onus then must be with the other party. If your partner is too drunk to consent then they are too drunk to have sex. The other side of this coin is education. Children need to be educated about the nuts and bolts of relationships and as adults we need to be more explicit when we warn them about the dangers.

Do you think everyone understands what consent is?
Clearly not. It’s simple. One partner asks the other. Is this what you want? And if they say YES then fine. Any other answer or lack of answer will not do. There was a very effective twitter campaign (by the police I think) that likened sex to a cup of tea. If someone says they don’t want a cup of tea you don’t force it on them. Likewise if they are asleep or drunk or knocked out – you don’t force the cup of tea on them.

Why do you think the words ‘feminine’ & ‘feminism’ carry so much weight, and why are they so often shown as opposing sides?
The word ‘feminine’ is (to me) the way in which society has historically looked at women. So it’s important for the status quo. It keeps women in their place. ‘Feminism’ is (for me) a term of liberation. To be what I want to be regardless of the constraints put on me by that society.

Did you have to censor your writing for Stacey’s story?
I made a decision not to leave out the description of the rape. I described it using the correct terms and indicated that it was forced. This might cause me problems during school visits, but I felt it was really important that a teenage girl or boy should read it detail by detail and know what it entails. Some people have said the book is only suitable for 16-19 years olds, but I disagree with this. Sixteen is, in my opinion, far too late to learn about rape.

Switching things, how about sharing something about yourself that not many people know:
I worked for the Evening News (1970s) selling advertising space – dismally.

Anne Cassidy writes crime fiction for teenagers. She has written over forty novels.

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