Colleen Hoover wrote a novel titled Hopeless. Although fictional, it gives the reader a view into the life of a sexual assault victim and how trauma affects their relationships and everyday life. Hopeless follows 17 year old Sky who was adopted at the age of 5 and doesn’t remember much about her life before her adoption. Over the course of the novel, Sky eventually meets a young adult named Holder. The storyline follows the couple throughout their relationship. Sky eventually finds her biological father and visits her old home. When she returns there, she immediately remembers that she was sexually abused by her father. This novel raises so many important topics. It touches base on PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), family dynamics, how abuse and trauma can affect the way an individual reacts in a relationship, and how to be there for a victim of abuse.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is defined as a “condition of persistent mental and emotional stress occurring as a result of injury or severe psychological shock, typically involving disturbance of sleep and constant vivid recall of the experience, with dulled responses to others and to the outside world.” Although it is never stated that the main character suffered from this disorder, we can conclude that as a result of her childhood trauma, Sky completely erased that part of her life from her memory. It is also discussed in depth how Sky’s relationship with Holder and their intimacy is affected. It is important to remember that the pain doesn’t stop for a victim after the incident is over. They still have to live with and cope with what they experienced.
According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, 48 percent of victims reported that we are at home when this abuse occurred and 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18, experience abuse at the hands of an adult. This novel brings awareness to the fact that abuse often happens within the home. It’s not always a stranger, it is often someone you know and trust.
This novel shows how victims can often feel broken and ashamed, and lost. At one point, Sky states “not everyone gets a happily ever after. Life is real and sometimes it’s ugly and you just have to learn how to cope.” It accurately depicts the emotions and issues that a victim may encounter on their journey to healing. It also showcases how important it is to have a support system. Sky heavily leans on Holder to help her throughout her healing process. That not only shows that it is okay to need help and to reach out, but the importance of being there for your friends and victims of abuse, in general. In a conversation with Sky, Holder reassures her by saying “I want you to remember who you are, despite the bad things that are happening to you. Because those bad things aren’t you. They are just things that happen to you. You need to accept that who you are and the things that happen you, are not one and the same.”
In another instance, Sky is having a nightmare and Holder comforts her. Holder demonstrates the patience, kindness, and understanding that a victim of assault needs. This moment is important because the struggles that a victims of assault face are not often discussed. We are often told the story of strong survivors who are ready for justice, but not always told about everything that an individual has to conquer with mentally and emotionally to get to that point.
It is important for sexual assault to be represented in literature. It is often easier to face truths if you are hearing about them from an outside perspective. Imagine being a victim of abuse, and feeling alone, and not understanding or knowing hope to cope and then finding a novel like this one. Though it is ironically titled Hopeless, this novel fills you with hope, that you are not alone, and that there is nothing wrong with you as well as discussing difficult subjects in an understanding and honest way.