Category Archives: Interpersonal violence

Five life lessons inspired by sexual assault survivors

Most of the sexual assault survivors I have come to know in the process of researching and writing Unsafe On Any Campus? were teenagers when they were raped. For many, the assault turned their world upside down, sending them into a downward spiral of self-loathing, distrust, and cynicism. Fortunately, for most, resilience won out. In fact, a few have even found a new center, a renewed sense of self, and an element of peace.

This begs the question: What life lessons can we learn from these trauma survivors? Here are just five:

  1. Live in the moment. In all too many cases, the rape was so traumatizing that victims dropped classes, withdrew from school altogether, or completely shifted their everyday lives inward. Their depression was fueled by continually reliving the events and the assault. Their transition from victim to survivor often began with a renewed and deeper appreciation for the moments of support, beauty, and dignity they experienced each day rather than reliving the horror of the assault. This allowed many to reclaims their sense of purpose and recapture the dignity that makes them human. 
  2. Draw strength from community. Eighty percent of women who have been raped never disclose the assault to university or law enforcement officials. The figure is even lower for men. The trauma is so personal, so devastating, that many victims are afraid to tell anyone, even their closest friends and family. Reaching out to those cared for them most intimately, those who gave their unqualified support, started them on their path toward recovery. Without the support of those friends and family, survivors say they wouldn’t have had the courage to acknowledge let alone go public with their assault. This close knit group because their rock, their community, and a foundation stone for rebuilding their lives. 
  3. We each have our own journey. Each survivor has their our own personal journey to recovery. The more survivors I met, the more obvious it became that each rape (and assault) was different, each circumstance was unique, each consequence personal. I have met women who were able to move on quickly, and others that struggled to leave their home. The depth of their trauma is highly individualized, making their journeys equally diverse. Survivors are deeply respectful and tolerant of the importance for individuals to chart their own course, to discover their own path, to recovery. This inward reflection leads to a recasting of identity and understanding of self that is inspiring strong and purposeful. 
  4. Each journey has its own path. Not all survivors choose the same road to recovery or healing. The physical and emotional nature of a violation through rape triggers deep wounds that are often invisible, even to those that experience it. Thus, the paths are as varied as the journeys and require many more decisions than paths available. These paths can seem like they shift under their feet, and often become illuminated only after they have been trodden. Survivors on a healing journey are remarkably resilient. They understand the nature of emotional barriers and the difficulties of overcoming them. They are patient and empathetic. They persist with grit and determination. 
  5. Forgiving yourself is essential for healing and stepping foot on our path. Often, this self-forgiveness begins when we acknowledge the truth of a seemingly trite, but essentially true, mantra: “It’s not your fault.” Many of the men and women I came to know became victims through no fault of their own. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and unaware of the threat standing right next to them. Yet they blame themselves first and this weight drags them deep into depression. The path toward healing begins with forgiving oneself. Indeed, this may be the most important lesson of all because this self-forgiveness releases one from the self loathing and guilt that keeps victims in the past, focused on the past, and their paths dark.

These teenagers became women far too soon, their innocence stolen in a matter of minutes. They were forced to “grow up” and become adults far faster than any parent would want for their child. Fortunately, many survivors find a place where they can accept themselves again and embark on a path of self re-discovery. These stories—their journeys of recovery and healing—are almost never told. They don’t make it into make it into the headlines. Yet, as these survivors pivot on their path, they often find a light others may never know.

They also inspire me.

By bearing witness to their trauma, we can take inspiration from their journeys. By allowing ourselves to hear, we can understand the struggles that come with trauma. If we understand, we can support those who are on their path as well as those struggling to find it.

Perhaps, if enough of us understand, sexual assault and rape will become relegated to a dark part of our social history and banished from our present culture.

 

Permission to reprint and distribute this blog post is given with attribution to the author, Samuel R. Staley, Unsafe On Any Campus? College Sexual Assault and What We Can Do About It (Southern Yellow Pine Publishing, 2016)

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4 ways Trump’s “locker room talk” leads to campus sexual assault

Unsafe On Any Campus?Video tapes of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump demeaning women and bragging about sexually assaulting them led to a firestorm on social media. For his part, Trump apologized while deflecting responsibility for the full weight of his actions by dismissing the banter as “locker room talk.” The fact Trump is so casual in his willingness to brag about sexual assault is deeply troubling because it fails to recognize how it contributes to a toxic environment on high school and college campus. Locker room talk like that exchanges captured on the audio table enables, abets, and sustains attitudes the promote campus sexual assault and rape.

This is how the New York Times summed up the banter among Trump, the male host of Access Hollywood, and the other men in the vehicle:

In the three-minute recording, which was obtained by The Washington Post, Mr. Trump recounts to the television personality Billy Bush of “Access Hollywood” how he once pursued a married woman and “moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there,” expressing regret that they did not have sex. But he brags of a special status with women: Because he was “a star,” he says, he could “grab them by the pussy” whenever he wanted.

Is this harmless banter, just playful back and forth between men?

I would have been more dismissive of the effects five years ago, before I started coaching self-defense to women at FSU. I would have thought the language was distasteful, disrespectful, and offensive, but I would not have put much stock in the banter among men as directly harmful. I would also have been wrong. Research now shows that 18-20% of women will report experiencing the kinds of sexual assault Trump brags about by the time they graduate from college (and the share is higher for non-college students). 

Ample research has shown that fraternities, sororities, athletic teams, and certain cohorts of students hold general attitudes that diminish and objectivize women the way Trump did in his comments. For a few examples, see the study by Bannon, Brosi and Foubert on sorority and fraternity men’s attitudes in the Journal of student Affairs Research and Practice; the study by Chad Menning on perceptions of personal safety and risk at these parties in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence; and an analysis of fraternity party structure that produces these results by Brandon Harris and Dorothy Schmalz in the journal Deviant BehaviorWhile the question of whether our campuses are characterized by a widespread and deeply embedded rape culture is open to question, certain institutions and subgroups clearly do.

Thus, I now think differently. My perspective evolved because of the women I coach, the stories I’ve been privileged to learn about from sexual assault survivors, and a careful reading of research on young-adult behavior and human sexuality.

But what is still missing in the public outrage over Trump’s talk and his weak and shallow response is a clearer understanding of how this banter supports and sustains a rape culture, whether widespread or contained within smaller sub-groups.

Below are four ways “locker room talk” promotes misogyny and thus abets sexual assault on campuses.

1. Locker boom talk robs women of agency.

The narrative in this type of talk mocks the idea that women have any legitimate ability to prevent an attack on their body and human dignity. In other words, women cannot, should not, or do not, act on their own, with agency. The tone also promotes the idea that this weakness should be exploited regardless of their victim’s desires or preferences. It’s an attitude that is opposite the values taught in most Western societies—that those unable to defend themselves should be protected. The idea that a woman could, or should, object to these assaults, or say “no,” is dismissed, undermined, and pushed by perpetrators outside the boundaries of tolerable behavior or response, even when this behavior is highly offensive and even traumatizing. The banter is framed solely in the context of men taking what they want, regardless of the desires, preferences, or concerns of their target. This is what is meant by locker room talk “objectifying” women.  Indeed, Trump laments that fact he could not actually force a women to have sex with him, as if it’s he was denied a legitimate claim. But this is just the first layer of misogyny.

2. Locker Room Banter forces women to play victim.

Because the narrative is set up to give men power, and to marginalize resistance by the target of the assault, women are forced to play victim. They must accept the injury without comment or resistance because that is their “place.” The talk de-legitimizes self-defense, retaliation against the harm inflicted, or efforts to seek justice by equalizing the balance of power. In fact, the behavior implicitly rejects that idea that a harm has been created by the victims, and efforts to search for redress or rebalancing of these relationships is therefore illegitimate. Thus, Trump gloats about how he can kiss women on the lips, or grab them between their legs, and they will simply take it without objecting or defending themselves.

3. Locker Room Banter deflects responsibility for bad behavior and the harm created.

Talk that victimizes and objectifies others reinforces attitudes about a natural order of supremacy between men over women. Trump’s words and banter establishes a male-dominated paternalism that allows him and others to ignore responsibility for any bad behavior and outcomes from their actions. This dominance forged in private, giving it a privileged status among equals that is separated from public behavior and accountability. “Boys will be boys” attitudes essentially absolves them of responsibility for their actions and the consequences for their victims, and these are the attitudes agreed to by the group or tribe. Women have to just “get over it” and accept that this is what men do. This separates thoughts from actions as if it were okay to think about hurting people as long as someone’s doesn’t act on it, or isn’t caught performing the act. (But of course Trump is bragging about acts he claims he perpetrated.) Thus, the men in the trailer react positively to Trump’s claims of repeated attempts and successes in assaulting the women he comes in contact with. 

4. Locker Room Banter perpetuates victimization and harmful behavior among offenders.  

Cognitive psychology and cognitive behavioral therapy has shown that thoughts and behaviors are intertwined, and one cannot separate them easily. One way of looking at this is that if someone habitually and routinely objectifies other people, their behavior begins to track with those thoughts and is patterned by those prejudices. Thus, words become actions. Locker room talk normalizes the behavior being described, thus perpetuating actions that further diminish, objectify, and harm women (or others that are the target of the attacks). Again, this is clear in the audio tape by the reaction from the other men, who seem encouraged by Trump’s self-described success and admiration for his ability to use his privilege to continue his assaults without consequence. 

In Unsafe On Any Campus?, I argue that the respect for individual human dignity must form the core of a holistic and comprehensive approach to sexual assault on college campuses. The locker room banter used by Donald Trump, and accepted by the other men in the trailer, flies in the face of that concept by completely ignoring and belittling the value of the women he has targeted with his assaults. The fact Donald Trump does not seem to understand this, and in fact boasts of how he intentionally assaults the dignity of women by using the privileges bestowed on him by wealth and celebrity, is a dramatic illustration of why sexual assault continues to be a significant problem on college campuses in and society more generally.

Here is also a short interview I provided to the Capitol News Service on October 11, 2016, explaining some of these thoughts.

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Amazon links to “Unsafe On Any Campus?” are now live!

Unsafe On Any Campus? College Sexual Assault and What We Can Do About It.

Unsafe On Any Campus? College Sexual Assault and What We Can Do About It.

I am happy to report that the amazon.com links to Unsafe On Any Campus? are now live! I also discovered that pre-orders have hit #53 in the rankings under political science/public policy/abuse.

  • Amazon print $14.95: http://bit.ly/UnsafeAznPrint
  • Amazon kindle ($4.95): http://bit.ly/Unsafekindle

Pre-orders for $3 off are still available through Southern Yellow Pine’s website using the coupon code READ: http://bit.ly/syppunsafe

And, of course, we have an amazing line up of experts for our public forum and launch event at Element3 Church on July 28th, at 7:00 pm.

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Book release and public forum for “Unsafe On Any Campus?” event details

Unsafe On Any Campus? Public forum details for July 28, 2016

Unsafe On Any Campus? Public forum details for July 28, 2016

Unsafe On Any Campus? College Sexual Assault and What We Can Do About It will be officially released at a public forum and discussion on campus sexual assault at Element3 Church in Tallahassee on Thursday, July 28th. All the details are now set, and the public forum will include an A-list line up of experts on campus sexual assault.

  • How many students become victims of sexual assault on college campuses?
  • What can students do to protect themselves and their friends?
  • What are colleges doing to address campus sexual assault?
  • What questions should every student ask their college admissions officer?

These and other questions will be answered by participants in a discussion moderated by Sam Staley, author of Unsafe On Any Campus?

Doors will open at 6:30 pm with the program beginning at 7 pm and wrapping up by 9 pm. Red-Eye Coffee and refreshments will be provided, courtesy of Element3 Church and Southern Yellow Pine Publishing. The forum will be highly interactive, maximizing audience input and questions. We will also be running a simultaneous Facebook event so anyone from around the world can participate and ask questions. (Details on this to follow.)

Here are the details on the speakers:

ruthkrug_photoRuth Krug

Ruth is a certified trauma-sensitive yoga trainer, mindfulness teacher, and campus rape survivor based in the Midwest. She is also a Restorative Justice practitioner who has worked in local public schools at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels. A graduate of Florida State University, she majored in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences with a focus on political science, nonprofit administration and economics. Ruth’s healing journey is chronicled along with other survivor stories and testimonies on her blogs Feeding the Heart and Reclaiming Lost Voices.

 

Christopher Krebs

Christopher Krebs

Christopher Krebs, PhD 

Chief Scientist, Center for Justice, Safety, and Resilience, RTI International

Chris has extensive research experience in the areas of corrections, substance abuse epidemiology and treatment, intimate partner violence and sexual violence, HIV transmission among and associated high-risk behaviors of offenders and inmates, criminal justice systems, and program evaluation. He has led and worked on a number of projects for the National Institute of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. He has employed both quantitative and qualitative methods in his research and has extensive experience designing studies, developing survey instruments, analyzing data, and disseminating findings. Dr. Krebs has published and presented numerous research papers on a wide variety of topics.

 

Jennifer-Broomfield_mediumJennifer Broomfield, LISW, JD

Title IX Director, Florida State University

Jennifer is a licensed attorney and clinical social worker. Prior to coming to FSU, Ms. Broomfield served as the National Program Manager for the Department of Veterans Affairs Intimate Partner Violence Program. Ms. Broomfield has served as an Assistant Attorney General in the Children’s Legal Services Department of the Office of the Attorney General for the State of Florida where she investigated and prosecuted sexual assault and child abuse dependency cases. Additionally, Ms. Broomfield has been an adjunct professor of social work at undergraduate and graduate programs in New Mexico.

 

rrezaeiRose Rezaie, MEd

Assistant Director, Center for Health Advocacy and Wellness, Florida State University

Rose’s main responsibilities include overseeing campus wide initiatives at FSU encompassing sexual violence prevention and sexual health education. Rose received her Bachelor’s in Mass Communication and Master’s in College Student Affairs from the University of South Florida. Creating space where students feel empowered to take ownership of their lives through education and skill building serves as the foundation of her work. Outside of FSU, she enjoys attending community events, thrift shopping, and traveling.

 

kpruettKori Pruett, MS

Power-Based Personal Violence Coordinator, Florida State University

Kori’s main responsibilities at FSU include educating students on the dynamics of sexual violence, the myths that surround sexual violence, ways to obtain and define consent, empowering students through bystander intervention, and informing students about campus resources and support. She is also the Co-Chair of the Curriculum Development Sexual Violence Prevention Sub Committee. Kori received her Master’s and Bachelor’s in International Affairs from Florida State University. In her spare time she participates in community service organizations, enjoys outdoor adventures, and travels to as many new locations as possible.

You can still get your copy of the book for $3 off on pre-orders through SYPP’s website! Use the coupon code READ.

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Unsafe on Any Campus? Available for pre-order!

Available from Southern Yellow Pine Publishing

Available from Southern Yellow Pine Publishing

Unsafe on Any Campus? College Sexual Assault, and What We Can Do About It is available for pre-order from Southern Yellow Pine Publishing with an official release date set for July 28, 2016! The retail price is $14.95. Discounts begin with orders of 5 or more (25%) with orders of 25 or more receiving a 40% discount. Contact SYPPublishing for more details.

Unsafe on Any Campus? is an unsparing and unflinching look into the reality of today’s campus life and why it puts students at risk for sexual assault and rape each year. Sam Staley examines in depth why current strategies that rely on the U.S. court system to achieve justice fall short of achieving meaningful resolution, tapping into the personal stories of rape survivors, recent academic research, and his experience as a self-defense coach to frame a bold strategy for dealing with this ongoing scourge. His conclusions challenge the conventional wisdom of advocates, campus rape deniers, and many in the law enforcement community. Long-term success, he contends, requires a comprehensive plan that builds a trauma-centered framework on four pillars—human dignity, personal and bystander empowerment, accountability for offenders, and a narrow and more effective role for the criminal justice system. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the problem of sexual assault on today’s university and college campuses.

  •  How many students are sexually assaulted each year on today’s college campuses?
  • Are today’s students victims of a sexually permissive culture, sexual predators, rampant misogyny among fraternities, and insensitive college bureaucracies?
  • What anti-sexual assault programs really work?
  • What are the six questions every incoming freshman and parent should ask their university or college administration?
  • What are the ten proactive steps parents can take to reduce the risk that their children will experience sexual assault and rape when they enter college?

“This book signals a turning point in addressing rape and sexual assault in college and university environments. It is innovative, practical, and empowering. How we address rape and sexual assault needs to change, and this book will take the reader through the process of understanding human sexuality, rape, trauma, and how we can help ground a new approach that will eliminate this scourge on campus life.”

Ruth Krug, campus rape survivor

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What parents can do about college campus sexual assault

Staley,selfdefenseinstructor,2

Coaching self-defense at Florida State University with members of Global Peace Exchange

Ever since I started writing my book, Unsafe On Any Campus? College Sexual Assault, and What We Can Do About It, I have been asked what are the proactive steps we can take to reduce the chances our kids will be sexually assaulted when they go to college. It’s a fair question, and I discuss some of these steps in the last chapter of my book. For those that are impatient, here are 10 action items that will go a long way toward addressing the problem:

  1. Enroll your children in a martial-arts based self-defense program as early as middle school or ninth grade that includes scenario-based training and situational awareness.
  2. Encourage high schools to include human sexuality in their curricula so that students are at least exposed to professional opinion about sex, intimacy, and human bonding, and why sexual assault and rape can be so devastating.
  3. Encourage high school college counselors to include workshops on the risks and dangers on modern campus life, including bystander roles, responsibilities, and interventions.
  4. Encourage parent groups and associations to hold workshops on campus sexual assault, risk reduction, and prevention.
  5. Encourage adult discussions with teenagers and college-age children about sexual assault and how it impacts their lives and the lives of their friends.
  6. Be open to a wide range of remedies and strategies for addressing sexual assault on college campuses while also insisting on evidence-based accountability in the programs;
  7. Insist that colleges and universities hold offenders accountable, and provide evidence that their programs are reducing risks of sexual assault faced by students.
  8. Read the campus sexual assault policies for the colleges and universities students plan to attend.
  9. Ask for data on sexual assaults, investigations, and the results of those investigations.
  10. Ensure college-bound students are aware of programs and support available to them and their friends at the schools they plan to attend.

You can find out much more self-defense programs and the book at my website, campusninjaselfdefense.com.

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25 questions “UnSafe On Any Campus?” will answer

This summer, my newest book, Unsafe On Any Campus? College Sexual Assault and What We Can Do About It, will be published by Southern Yellow Pine Publishing. This journey has been both amazingly personal and one of the most challenging writing projects I have undertaken. I now have a portion of my self-defense website, campusninjaselfdefense.com, devoted to the book. Here are 25 questions Unsafe On Any Campus? will answer:IMG_1195 (1)

  1. How serious is sexual assault on today’s college campuses?
  2. Is sexual assault and rape an “epidemic” on today’s campuses?
  3. Who is most likely to be a victim of sexual assault?
  4. What is the connection between sex, sexuality and emotional trauma?
  5. What makes the trauma associated with rape and sexual assault different from other assaults and crimes?
  6. How does modern college culture complicate efforts to reduce sexual assault on campus?
  7. Is sexual assault an inevitable outcome of the “hook-up” culture and sexual promiscuity?
  8. How does miscommunication between men and women lead to higher rates of rape?
  9. Why don’t men “get it” when it comes to sexual assault?
  10. What is the profile of the “typical” rapist?
  11. Why can’t the traditional criminal justice system handle sexual assault and campus rape more effectively?
  12. What alternatives might be more effective in reducing sexual assault than traditional law enforcement?
  13. How can college students and young adults protect themselves and their friends against sexual assault?
  14. What role do bystanders play in stopping sexual assault?
  15. What programs or strategies are most effective in reducing sexual assault and rape on college campuses?
  16. What role can victim-offender dialogue and Restorative Justice play in creating better outcomes than the criminal justice system?
  17. What role does risk reduction plan in solving the sexual assault problem?
  18. Do sexual assault prevention strategies work?
  19. Why do some people minimize the effect of sexual assault and rape on college campuses?
  20. Why are so many women unwilling or reluctant to report their sexual assaults and rapes?
  21. What role does the media play in promoting sexual assault?
  22. Why is the famous “Rocky kiss” really a rape, and why does it matter?
  23. Is James Bond a serial rapist?
  24. What role can self-defense based martial arts play in reducing risks and preventing sexual assault?

Check out this blog and my website for more details about the book and answers to these questions!

 

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The story in “Unsafe On Any Campus?”

Staley,JohnLongMS,Nov2013

Sam Staley talks about writing novels about interpersonal violence and bullying at John Long Middle School in Wesley Chapel, Florida

Oddly, many people, including professional writers, don’t think of nonfiction books in terms of story. This is unfortunate, because any rhetorical work implies the presentation of an idea or perspective, and involves some form of persuasion. Otherwise, why write the book? My Newest book, Unsafe On Any Campus?, is a case in point.

Unsafe On Any Campus has two goals: educate the general public about the character, nature, and extent of campus sexual assault and rape, and provide a practical framework for reducing its prevalence and impact. But the book can’t be just a “brain dump”: a compilation of statistics and studies. It also can’t be what fiction writers call an “information dump,” dialogue or story interruption with the sole purpose of providing story or character background. In fiction (and screenwriting for that matter), every word in dialogue or the narrative is chosen to move the story forward. This is what we mean by “every word counts.”

Nonfiction writers also have to tell a story, and they need to use active voice and tone to move the story forward and keep readers. Like novelists, they need to “show,” not just tell. So, even though Unsafe on Any Campus? uses statistics, these numbers, case studies, thought experiments, figures, and charts are used to move the story forward in a compelling, active way. They aren’t just “dumped” on the reader, hoping they will sort out their importance on their own. Their inclusion in conscious, deliberate, and intentional.

I started thinking about nonfiction as story after my first published novel, The Pirate of Panther Bay, was published. When I co-authored fourth non-fiction book, The Road More Traveled Ted Balaker, a policy book about traffic congestion, I thought about how the argument and story builds to its concluding chapter of policy recommendations. I learned a lot from Ted because his background was network television, and he understood the importance of showing or painting pictures for viewers to illustrate important points. In other words, don’t just “tell” your audience something—show them a picture and let them come to their own conclusions based on the information you have artfully provided.

Ted and I had a structure to the story. We identified the problem, and then showed how different ways of parsing data gave us a different way of looking at traffic congestion. This was just not an information dump. This section challenged our skills to explore the problem and show the reader a different way of looking at it. This new way of looking at the data then organically led to a section that showed how our worldview was different from conventional views—this builds the conflict in our story. Our books final chapters examined the path forward built on our new vision. (The follow up book, Mobility First: A New Vision for Transportation in a Globally Competitive 21st Century, co-authored with Adrian Moore, was even more intentional.)

This approach to story structure in nonfiction was crucial for Unsafe On Any Campus? because of the controversial and high profile nature of the social issue and the conclusions and recommendations I present in the final chapters. My goal is for readers to look at the problem of campus sexual assault in a different light, cut through the “white noise” of pundits and experts talking past each other, and consider what I believe are practical and effective solutions in a more comprehensive framework.

The book has three parts: chapters that establish why campus sexual assault is an important issue (even if it is not an “epidemic”), how we need to think differently about the problem (contemporary campus young adult culture), and how these first two elements are essential to framing the solution. In other words, each section has its own internal purpose and goal, but they build on each other organically to reach a climatic conclusion in the story of how we address campus sexual assault.

We’ll see how readers, professionals, and pundits respond this summer with the book is released. For more on Unsafe On Any Campus, check out www.campusninjaselfdefense.

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RPLA win raises visibility of little people in mainstream society

One of the more gratifying aspects of winning 2nd place in the Royal Palm Literary Competition was that the it happened in October. This month is Dwarfism Awareness Month, and as readers of St. Nic, Inc. know, little people–dwarves–play an important role in the story and plot. I think my fictional characters mirror the roles real dwarves play more generally in our society, even though they are not always recognized or acknowledged. I am pleased that the RPLA award have given greater public visibility to this novel and, by extension, little people.StNicInc,COVER

Someone recently observed that all my novels address a social justice issue of some sort. In the Pirate of Panther Bay series, the stories focus on interpersonal violence and human dignity. In Renegade and A Warrior’s Soul (the Path of the Warrior series), the issue is bullying and sexual assault. In St. Nic, Inc., prejudice and discrimination are critical elements of the plot and storyline. In fact, I can honestly say. without giving too much away, little people are an indispensable element to the story–the story just wouldn’t be the same, and not nearly as interesting, without them. Dwarves are full-fledged, multi-dimensional characters with their own ambitions, courage, fears, skills, and competencies, and their choices as individuals determine the outcome of the story. In no way are they tokens.

Just who are some of these central characters?

  • Rowdy, the software engineer turned businessman, who company’s revenues power the North Pole to achieve its social mission;
  • Ron Cutler, the seasoned corporate attorney turned civil rights lawyer
  • Lisa Patten, the chief of surgery at the North Pole hospital
  • Fred, a professional nurse who befriends one of a lead average-sized characters

Several other characters play smaller but important cameo roles.

RPLA_2ndPl_BadgeImportantly, St. Nic, Inc. is not a story about little people. Rather, it’s a story about the North Pole, and what it might look like if it really exists. Little people make up about 25% of the North Pole population. Average-sized people play prominent roles as lead characters, but, like all societies, this is an ensemble story with different characters on different paths and arcs.

So, why do little people exist at all? Good question. St. Nic, Inc. was written in part with an eye on broaching a broader discussion about prejudice in mainstream society from a different perspective. I have a lot on my website discussing these issues, and the role of little people in the development of the story as well as their role in the novel, including:

So, thank you RPLA for helping me bring this discussion to a broader audience!

For more information on Dwarfism Awareness month, click here. Support Little People of America by either joining (here) or buying St. Nic, Inc. through the LPA’s web site (under the section “Fiction with dwarf characters”).

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