Title: Someone You Already KnowAuthor: Sarahbeth Caplin
Release Date: July 22, 2014
Two teenage girls, two experiences with sexual assault: one committed by a stranger, the other by a relationship partner. Neither girl quite believes the other when she shares her story: wasn’t she ‘asking for it’ by walking home alone so late at night? Why didn’t she just end the relationship if he really treated her that way?
Someone You Already Know is a raw, emotional book that explores the impact of rape culture on modern society. Told in alternating perspectives from two survivors, it unpacks the common myths of sexual assault, revealing important truths that every woman needs to know.
Less than three months now until graduation. I’m “buckling down,” as Mom likes to say, mostly because the distraction of Wuthering Heights is keeping me from losing my mind. I took the novel with me to Starbucks today, intending to read more than what was assigned for the week so I wouldn’t have to worry about it.
But lo and behold, a familiar face is standing behind the counter today. “Trevor, what are you doing here?”
I wish I could take it back immediately after I say it. I mean, come on. He’s standing behind the counter wearing the signature green apron; of course he’s there because he works there. I’m surprised he doesn’t roll his eyes at me when he confirms as much. His smile remains warm and inviting, as it always has. “What can I make for you, Katherine?”
“Just a plain latte, please. No flavors or anything.”
“No flavors? You know, you can tell a lot about a person by how they like their coffee–”
“Well if you’re implying that I’m dull and boring, I guess you might be right.” I plunk my money on the counter, and chastise myself for such elementary flirting.
Now he rolls his eyes. “Not what I meant to say,” he replies, but he’s still smiling. As he hands me back my change, he says, “I have a break coming up. Is it okay if I talk to you for a bit? I only get fifteen minutes.”
My first instinct is to refuse, but fifteen minutes won’t kill me, I guess. The drama of Cathy and Heathcliffe will wait. “Sure, why not.”
Five minutes later, he is sitting across from me in a velvet chair. He smells heavily of espresso, which is to be expected, but that plus the hint of cologne is making my nostrils twitch. Oh well, fifteen minutes of breathing through my mouth won’t kill me either.
“How are you, Katherine?” he asks.
Surprisingly, I don’t mind this question coming from him. Probably because I know he actually means it, whereas everyone else asks because they feel they have to. It’s because of this that I feel comfortable answering honestly: “I’ve been all right. A little stressed. I’m just really looking forward to graduation.”
“Yeah, me too. This town is a little small. Know where you’re going to college yet?”
“Still deciding. You?”
The flow stops short. I do appreciate him asking how I’m doing, but small talk still annoys me like nothing else. He doesn’t want to hear about colleges; neither do I. Do I do it? Do I take the chance to be honest about what’s really going on in my life? Well, there is one benefit if I do: he could be completely freaked out by my transparency and go back to avoiding me, thus getting rid of all these conflicting emotions I have about giving dating a chance someday. The longer I am left alone, the more time I have to delay making a decision. Healing is my top priority now.
I decide to just go ahead and take the risk, see what happens. “I’m sort of having a fight with Elisabeth.”
He raises an eyebrow. “Oh?”
I stare into my cup. It’s easier to be honest without making eye contact. “Yeah. She was involved with this guy for a while, and she broke up with him because she says he didn’t treat her right. I guess I just don’t understand…I mean, if he was as bad as she says, why didn’t she leave him sooner? She’s a smart girl, you know?”
“Ahh.” I look up and notice that he doesn’t look about to run away. He actually seems captivated. “Well, I don’t know anything about the workings of the female psyche. So I won’t hazard a guess for why she didn’t leave him. Not to defend this guy if he really was a jerk, but being the guy in a relationship is a lot harder than women think it is.”
I feel my defenses tightening, and for a split second I wonder why in the world I thought talking to him was a good idea. But I can’t help it; I’m intrigued by his statement. “Really? Enlighten me, because in my experience, women are the ones who are unfairly judged and labeled when they don’t deserve it.”
Wow. I actually sound like I’m defending Elisabeth now. What is going on here?
Trevor leans forward. “I have an older brother who went out with this girl he met at an animal rights rally. She was a feminist–a real piece of work, in my opinion. No offense. Anyway, she would always get really defensive about anything Thomas would do for her that was nice: holding doors open, pulling chairs out, helping her with her coat. Stuff I always thought you were supposed to do. But Kelly…man, she really hated when he’d do that. They broke up after two months because she was so radical, and I know my brother is a good guy.”
He shook his head. “I think it’s sad and funny the way women expect men to treat them with respect, but never give them a chance to do so because the media conditions them to assume we’re all predators. I’ve held doors open for women and gotten yelled at for it, because you know, they’re more than capable of opening their own doors. That’s actually what happened the night of that party. I saw a girl struggling to get through the door here at Starbucks with an armload of books, and she chastised me for treating her like she was made of china when I offered to help. So that’s why I was such a jerk to you that night. I was really angry.”
And here I thought that my issues would scare him off. I feel like I should be angry by his assertion that most men are misunderstood. I feel like I should be telling him to spend a day in my shoes, see how the tables are turned.
Surprisingly, I am calm and curious. “Okay, so maybe men are unfairly judged at times. But as a male, the world isn’t a scary place for you as it is for women. We live in a world where a woman is blamed if she’s attacked while walking alone and wearing a skirt, because ‘she should have known better.’ It’s not the same…”
“Looks like men and women are both victims of injustice then. All of humanity sucks. Let’s drink to that!”
I laugh, in spite of myself. “You know, maybe you’re right.”
His smile morphs into a straight line suddenly. “Regarding Elisabeth…” He stares into his lap, wrings his hands uncomfortably. “If women are taught to assume the worst about men–because you know, we’re all bad guys–well, the way her boyfriend treated her wouldn’t have shocked her much, would it? She probably thought whatever he did was normal. Think about it.”
Once again, he leaves me speechless. He stands up before I can think of how to respond. “My break is over,” he informs me. With that, he places a tentative hand on my shoulder that actually feels caring, not threatening. “We’re not all bad guys, Katherine,” he says. “I think most of us are assholes only when prompted to be. Not by default.”
I’m still speechless as he re-ties his apron and returns behind the counter.
Beth holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Kent State University. It was during college that she first saw her name in print as a columnist for her campus newspaper, The Daily Kent Stater. Now living in Denver, Colorado, she can be found in various microbreweries when not chained to her laptop working on future books.