Where I Stopped: Remembering Rape at Thirteen

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On a hot August afternoon in 1968, Martha Ramsey, thirteen years old, was raped near a deserted country road in New Jersey, a half-mile from her home. The attack tore away her childhood and irrevocably changed her world - a change she would spend many years pretending never happened. Where I Stopped is a compassionate rendering of Martha the young girl, as she lives through rape and its repercussions in her life, and Martha the adult, as she turns to face the meaning of her memories. As a girl, Martha had to cope...
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Overview

On a hot August afternoon in 1968, Martha Ramsey, thirteen years old, was raped near a deserted country road in New Jersey, a half-mile from her home. The attack tore away her childhood and irrevocably changed her world - a change she would spend many years pretending never happened. Where I Stopped is a compassionate rendering of Martha the young girl, as she lives through rape and its repercussions in her life, and Martha the adult, as she turns to face the meaning of her memories. As a girl, Martha had to cope with her family's shock and with the inept responses of teachers and schoolmates. She survived the insensitivity of the police when they had her reenact the moment of the attack, in an attempt to identify a suspect. She testified in an open courtroom. And she tried, without guidance from anyone, to make sense of what the rapist did. As the years passed, Ramsey told herself that the rape had caused her no lasting harm. She grew up to pursue a rewarding life as a published poet and teacher. She made a happy marriage. But she had chronic doubts. Did she help convict the wrong man? Might she have brought the rape on herself by inviting it somehow? Did it damage her sexuality? She tried to ignore her recurrent childlike cravings for help and love. Twenty years later, her unease finally compels her to examine her memories and attempt to understand what really happened. With gripping suspense and poignancy, this powerful memoir conveys the peculiar way the psyche resists knowing what it has suffered from sexual abuse, and what it is like to arrive haltingly at a truthful connection with one's own history. The first autobiography to address adolescent rape compellingly, Where I Stopped is indispensable reading for anyone who wishes to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of rape, how to come to terms with it, and how to be of help.

A compassionate rendering of Martha the young girl, as she lives through rape and its repercussions in her life, and of Martha the adult, as she turns to face the meaning of her memories, Ramsey's book conveys the peculiar way in which the psyche resists knowing what it has suffered from sexual abuse, and what it is like to arrive haltingly at a truthful connection with one's own history.

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Editorial Reviews

Megan Harlan

When Martha Ramsey was raped at age 13, by a stranger on a country road in New Jersey, she denied being traumatized. She promised herself: "I would be one of the people who came out fine." Her dysfunctional family seemed equally willing to bury the event; immediately after the attack, her alcoholic father offered her the only solace he knew -- a drink. This sharp-edged, startlingly candid, yet lyrically written memoir traces the two decades it took Ramsey, a prize-winning poet who now lives in Vermont, to face not only the experience of rape but the scars it had left on her sexuality and self-image. At 34 she began asking, "The room of rape -- what was it like in there?"

In "Memory," the most compelling of the book's three sections, Ramsey vividly evokes the day of the rape -- from the favorite red dress she wore to the strange shape of the rapist's head. Here Ramsey also charts her confused belief that the rapist "taught" her sex; as a teenager, she vacillated between shame at boys whispering about her ordeal to a blustering pride in her so-called sexual experience. In college, this ambivalence translated into promiscuity, as she searched for a man who could "unrape" her. Later, she uncovered long-suppressed rage towards her mother, who had also been raped as a young woman, yet was unable to alleviate her daughter's pain.

In the final sections, Ramsey touches on her time in therapy groups, and offers multi-faceted perspectives on the event, including interviews she conducted as an adult with friends and family about the rape. Throughout, Ramsey wisely relies on her sensibility and skill as a poet to expose the truth of her ordeal, shared by any victim of a violent crime: "You will not be 'healed' -- cured. But your consciousness can embrace the whole of your hurt self." -- Salon

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Poet Ramsey (Blood Stories) was raped at the age of 13 by a stranger in the woods near her home. Here she details her recent efforts to trace the effects of this traumatic event on her subsequent development. The rape occurred, she explains, just when she began to be conscious of her sexual identity and to want to be desired by men. Consequently, it seemed to present her with a horrific warning. Ramsey's account of her refusal, even as a teenager, to blame herself for what happened is inspiring, as is her belief-which undergirds this book-that confronting and working through painful episodes helps banish their effects. Her unflinching scrutiny of the ways in which being raped affected her life, and her prose itself-elegant, clear and sharply insightful-make this memoir well worth reading for fans of personal narrative. (Jan.)
Donna Seaman
At 13, Ramsey was independent, tough, and very smart. Almost too smart. After being raped, she knew exactly what to do and conducted herself throughout the investigation and trial with considerable aplomb. But the adults in her life, especially her parents, failed to provide any emotional or spiritual comfort, thus condemning her to the dark, lonely silence of her stoicism. This book, which gleams as brightly as a searchlight against the night sky, is Ramsey's unsparing account of coming to terms with rape, a rape that savaged her innocence, warped her sexuality, and estranged her from family, friends, true-hearted lovers, and even herself. Ramsey is a poet, and her eye and ear for details and emotional nuance are extraordinary, infusing this exacting tale with a cathartic power. She traces every stage of her emotional life and chronicles her predictably disastrous relationships with men and her quest to be somehow "unraped." She did finally meet a compassionate man, but it was the writing of this magnificently honest book, 27 years after the fact, that healed the wounds of rape, and Ramsey's story, so courageously and beautifully told, will teach and heal others.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399141072
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/3/1996
  • Pages: 1
  • Product dimensions: 6.24 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.16 (d)

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