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Archive for februari, 2012

Tom

jag är en lögnare

Jag tycker att alla överdriver

Varför var min syster med hennes bror

Jag borde säga sanningen

Jag önskar att allt blir som förut.

Alex, 9B

Annonser

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Holly

Jag är Holly

Jag tycker om mina två syskon Karyn och Mikey.

Varför beter sig Karyn så annorlunda?

Jag borde fråga vad som hänt.

Jag önskar att allt skulle vara som vanligt.

Elisa, 9B

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Karyn

Jag är rädd

Jag tycker att jag aldrig skulle varit där

Varför händer detta mig?

Jag borde aldrig följt med Tom hem

Jag önskar att det var som förut

Linnéa, 9B

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Mikey

Jag är arg.

Jag tycker att de andra kan hjälpa till att sköta hemmet och laga mat.

Varför är det bara jag som ska slita för att de andra ska vara lyckliga?

Jag borde vara glad över att jag får bidra med något men…

Jag önskar att jag fick lite hjälp.

Nina, 9B

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Holly

Jag är förvirrad

Jag tycker att allt är upp och ned

Varför händer detta oss?

Jag borde göra något

Jag önskar att allt blir som förr.

Hanna, 9B

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Tonårsboken

Bloggen Tonårsboken älskar Älskar – Hatar. Läs den fina recensionen!

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En återkommande fråga från de elever som deltagit i projektet, men också från recensenter och bokbloggare, har varit: Vad hände sedan? En del har uttryckt irritation och frustration över bokens öppna slut. Så vi bad Jenny Downham förklara sig…

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

Good question.  Let me try and explain why I left the ending open.  Firstly, it was NOT because I’m writing a sequel.   Secondly, it was NOT to annoy and frustrate the reader!!

Here’s why:

Sexual assault is one of the most difficult crimes to prosecute because there are often only two witnesses – the defendant and the complainant.  Other factors, such as use of alcohol and drugs can muddy the situation further.  Often it comes down purely to issues of consent.  And that’s almost impossible to prove.  This means that many such cases don’t even make it to court.

When I was researching the book, I interviewed criminal lawyers, social workers, family support workers and police officers.  I watched court cases and read lots of books.  I interviewed adults who had been in similar situations and adults who worked with young people who had reported assault.  Nearly everyone I spoke to thought that although Karyn’s case would certainly make it to court in the ‘real’ world,  Tom would never be found guilty, because the evidence was too flimsy.

They also told me that with sexual assault cases, there is the ‘thirteenth juror’ to consider – the preconceptions of the twelve individual jury members.  One person might believe that any girl or woman who dresses provocatively ‘is leading a man on’, another might suppose that any girl who drinks alcohol before going to a guy’s house is ‘asking for it’, another might wonder why the girl agreed to go upstairs if she didn’t ‘want it.’  The odds are often stacked against any girl who reports such a crime.

This REALLY worried me.  I kept thinking, if I show a court case at the end of the book and Tom is found ‘not guilty,’ what message am I giving readers – don’t bother reporting an assault because your assailant will probably get away with it?  Yet if Tom was happily found guilty, this would not accurately reflect the very difficult realities of prosecuting a case such as this or show the likely outcome.

I tried not to let my fear inform the writing and when the first draft was finished, every single one of the people who helped me with research read it and gave feedback.  I wanted any gender bias or prejudice to come from the characters, not from the author.  I wanted to be sure I wasn’t perpetuating any myths or stereotypes around sexual assault.

And do you know what happened?

Many of my readers, including one of the criminal lawyers and one of the police officers said that they now believed that Tom would be found guilty. Not because there was more or better evidence, but due to the strength of the witnesses.  Ellie and Karyn.

Now I felt excited!  My story had made a hardened criminal lawyer change her mind.   A police officer who worked with these type of cases every day said that if Ellie and Karyn worked together to tell the truth, that Tom may be jailed for up to four years.

However, some of my other readers still thought that the girls’ story may be thrown out, that the ‘thirteenth juror’ would excuse Tom.  After all, hadn’t Karyn got drunk, dressed provocatively, and flirted all night?  Hadn’t Ellie consistently lied?  Who would ever believe them?

So, my ‘expert’ readers were passionately ‘split’ about the potential outcome.

Here’s how I tried to get the complexities across as succinctly as possible:

‘So, you’re going to plead guilty, are you?’ Dad dragged him (Tom) to the bed and made him sit down. ‘You’ll get three or four years in prison, you’ll be on the sex offenders register and come out as a convicted rapist. Is that what you want?’

‘No, but I don’t want this either.’

Dad got a hanky from his pocket and shoved it at him. ‘It’s a ridiculous step to plead guilty, when the conviction rate is so low. You have every chance of getting off.’

Tom listened so hard he forgot to breathe. He listened with every fibre, like he was falling from a mountain and Dad was yelling survival instructions.

‘This new statement means nothing,’ Dad went on, ‘not really, the police said as much. There’s no physical evidence, is there? No photos or videos, or texts, only her word against yours. The incentives for you to plead guilty are non-existent.’

He talked statistics and attrition rates and made everything seem so polarized – two foolish girls, one misunderstood boy. Tom made the occasional effort to struggle against it, but the simplicity of Dad’s argument was overwhelming. In court, the barrister would discredit both girls. Karyn wanted to sleep with Tom and regretted it later. Ellie was love-struck by Mikey and would do anything for him. Karyn got drunk and partied too hard. Ellie got seduced and betrayed her family.

I hope by this stage of the book it’s obvious whether Tom is guilty or not.  I hope it’s apparent that the girls will make excellent witnesses, but that the court may be biased against them.  I hope it’s obvious that the case will be protracted and extremely difficult for everyone involved.  I was NOT trying to be murky about any of these issues.  If a reader is still not sure if Tom ‘did it’ at this stage, then I have failed.  If a reader thinks the result of a court case is ‘obvious’, then I have failed.

Ultimately, I wanted the reader to come on a journey with me.  I wanted to make them think, to move them, to provoke them, to encourage them to tackle their own prejudices and to confront their own preconceptions about such a crime and to see how the truth can be a slippery thing.

By leaving the ending open, I like to think I have left an opportunity for thoughtfulness, for questioning, for debate…

Jenny Downham

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