Karyn L. Freedman's One hour in Paris: A true story of rape and recovery is an account of the rape and violence that Freedman went through as a 22-year old while backpacking through Europe.
Freedman tells the story beginning with a short introduction of her life at the time of the travel and briefly describes the different countries and cities she visited before stopping in Paris. She comes across as incredibly open and honest from the first page on and her description of the rape is just as honest. She describes every detail of the rape even though it must be difficult for her to let the reader know about all that she went through.
Freedman then spends the rest of the book describing the after work and trauma that she experienced, and is still experiencing, many years after the rape. Freedman discusses trauma at length, focusing on her symptoms and the struggle of learning how to deal with them, mentioning both positive ways (such as therapy) and negative ways of coping (such as turning to alcohol) with anxiety, panic attacks and feelings of being terrified.
Freedman discusses how her body reacts to certain cues and argues that despite knowing that some of her feelings and thought are in fact unreasonable, her body acts as if it is in danger. Freedman explains that trauma is permanent and is persistent in pointing out that rape is not personal but is an epidemic faced by women and children worldwide and uses the term "sexual terrorism" when discussing the ways in which rape is used to terrorize, control and punish women.
I truly appreciate Freedman's honesty even though the reading is at times brutal. I understand the need to be completely open as this is the only way to push for some sort of justice for rape survivors who are often blamed for what happened to them.
Ideally, I would have liked more of a discussion on victim blaming that rape survivors often experience, which involves being blamed for what they wore, if they had been drinking alcohol, if they were on their own and so on. I also wondered over Freedman's use of the term rape survivor. In feminist circles the term survivor is often preferred over victim as many women favor the more positive wording that survivor brings and do not want to be labelled a victim. Freedman does not disclose whether or not she uses survivor spontaneously or if she does so because the word has special meaning.
I would recommend this book to any person that has experienced rape or sexual violence. It can also be of great use in the classroom when discussing sexual violence and rape. This is one woman's story of what happened to her and I believe that many others can sympathize and recognize their trauma and feelings of guilt, anger and sadness through Freedman's writing. It is also important to realize that it is unlikely for a person to experience rape without trauma and without having many aspects of their lives altered. Freedman for example mentions struggling with having sex and being in intimate relationships after being raped. Freedman states that for the perpetrator rape is usually not about sex but for the survivor, rape is all about sex.
© 2014 Elin Weiss
Elin Weiss has a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and a Master's Degree in Women's Studies from University College Dublin, Ireland.