Bold debut novel challenges views of sexual abuse

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Chelsea Rooney's Pedal, her debut novel, is a bold and challenging look at issues that most veteran writers fear addressing. The novel examines sexual abuse, and also pedophiles, one of the last groups that, according to Rooney, "we're allowed to openly hate". Rooney, a Vancouver-based writer, completed the novel while attending UBC's MFA program. On her website, she says, "I just wanted to write a book that was funny and also had pedophiles in it, like life does." The humour and style with which Rooney writes renders this a necessary read for anyone seeking a fresh take on a mired subject.

Pedal tells the story of Julia, a counselling psychology master's student researching sexual abuse, specifically, non-traumatic sexual abuse in childhood. Julia seeks to find people like herself, who experienced sexual abuse as a child, but refuse to buy in to the victim/survivor models available. She nicknames her participants her "Molestas." In a meeting with Julia, one of the Molestas describes a therapist who tried to convince her that her depression was caused by her years of childhood molestation rather than her sister's recent death. The Molesta responds to the therapist by telling her to go fuck herself. Julia questions whether trauma and shame come from society - and particularly doctors - rather than from the experience itself.

The idea that childhood sexual abuse could be harmless, or even desired, will no doubt cause many readers to squirm; however, Rooney discusses this idea so unflinchingly and with such reason that I gave it full credence. The underlying message is inarguable - the right of women to define their own experiences of abuse.

source: Book review 'Bold debut novel challenges views of sexual abuse' by Jen Neale;;; 18 November 2014