Survivor Memoirs

Unapologetically Surviving is a participant in the Amazon Associates and Bookshop Affiliate Program, designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. The links below are affiliate links, which means we make a small commission (at no extra cost to you!) if you make a purchase. 

Intimate Partner Violence

Goodbye, Sweet Girl: A Story of Domestic Violence and Survival by Kelly Sundberg [Amazon | Bookshop]

In this brave and beautiful memoir, a woman chronicles how her marriage devolved from a love story into a shocking tale of abuse—examining the tenderness and violence entwined in the relationship, why she endured years of physical and emotional pain, and how she eventually broke free. Mesmerizing and poetic, a harrowing, cautionary, and ultimately redemptive tale that brilliantly illuminates one woman’s transformation as she gradually rejects the painful reality of her violent life at the hands of the man who is supposed to cherish her, begins to accept responsibility for herself, and learns to believe that she deserves better.

Crazy Love by Leslie Morgan Steiner [Amazon | Bookshop]

At 22, Leslie Morgan Steiner seemed to have it all: good looks, a Harvard diploma, a glamorous job in New York City. Plus a handsome, funny boyfriend who adored her. But behind her façade of success, this golden girl hid a dark secret. She’d made a mistake shared by millions: she fell in love with the wrong person. At first, Leslie and Conor seemed perfect together. Then came the fights she tried to ignore: he pushed her down the stairs, choked her during an argument, and threatened her with a gun. With each attack, Leslie lost another piece of herself. Why didn’t she leave? She stayed because she loved him. Crazy Love takes you inside the violent, devastating world of abusive love and makes you feel the power and powerlessness of abuse that can take place anywhere and to anyone. View Leslie’s TedTalk here.

Sexual Violence

Jane Doe January: My Twenty-Year Search for Truth and Justice by Emily Winslow [Amazon | Bookshop]

Emily Winslow was a young drama student at Carnegie Mellon University’s elite conservatory in Pittsburgh when a man brutally attacked and raped her in January 1992. While the police search for her rapist proved futile, Emily reclaimed her life. Over the course of the next two decades, she fell in love, married, had two children, and began writing mystery novels set in her new hometown of Cambridge, England. Then, in fall 2013, she received shocking news – the police had found her rapist. This is her intimate memoir – the story of a woman’s traumatic past catching up with her, in a country far from home, surrounded by people who have no idea what she’s endured. Caught between past and present, and between two very different cultures, the inquisitive and restless crime novelist searches for clarity.

I Have The Right To: A High School Survivor’s Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope by Chessy Prout [Amazon | Bookshop]

A young survivor tells her searing, visceral story of sexual assault, justice, and healing in this gut wrenching memoir. In 2014, Chessy Prout was a freshman at St. Paul’s School, a prestigious boarding school in New Hampshire, when a senior boy sexually assaulted her as part of a ritualized game of conquest. Chessy bravely reported her assault to the police and testified against her attacker in court. Then, in the face of unexpected backlash from her once-trusted school community, she shed her anonymity to help other survivors find their voice. This memoir takes a magnifying glass to the institutions that turn a blind eye to such behavior and a society that blames victims rather than perpetrators. Chessy’s story offers real, powerful solutions to upend rape culture as we know it today. Prepare to be inspired by this remarkable young woman and her story of survival, advocacy, and hope in the face of unspeakable trauma.

Girl in the Woods: A Memoir by Aspen Matis [Amazon | Bookshop]

In this inspiring memoir, Aspen chronicles her journey, a five-month trek that was ambitious, dangerous, and transformative. A nineteen-year-old girl alone and lost, exhausted after each 30-mile day, at times on the verge of starvation, Aspen was forced to confront her numbness, coming to terms with the sexual assault she experienced on the second night of college and her parents’ disappointing response of discouraging her from telling of the attack. On the trail and on her own, she found that survival is predicated on persistent self-reliance. She found her strength. After a thousand miles of solitude, she found a man who helped her learn to love and trust again – and heal.

Know My Name by Chanel Miller [Amazon | Bookshop]

She was known to the world as Emily Doe when she stunned millions with a letter. Brock Turner had been sentenced to just six months in county jail after he was found sexually assaulting her on Stanford’s campus. Now, she reclaims her identity to tell her story of trauma, transcendence, and the power of words. Her struggles with isolation and shame during the aftermath and the trial reveal the oppression victims face in even the best-case scenarios.  Know My Name will forever transform the way we think about sexual assault, challenging our beliefs about what is acceptable and speaking truth to the tumultuous reality of healing. It also introduces listeners to an extraordinary writer, one whose words have already changed our world. Entwining pain, resilience, and humor, this memoir will stand as a modern classic.

Lucky by Alice Sebold [Amazon | Bookshop]

In a memoir hailed for its searing candor, as well as its wit, Alice Sebold reveals how her life was transformed when, as an eighteen-year-old college freshman, she was brutally raped and beaten in a park near campus. What ultimately propels this chronicle of sexual assault and its aftermath is Sebold’s indomitable spirit, as she fights to secure her rapist’s arrest and conviction and comes to terms with a relationship to the world that has forever changed. With over a million copies in print, Lucky has touched the lives of a generation of readers. Sebold illuminates the experience of trauma victims and imparts a wisdom profoundly hard-won: “You save yourself or you remain unsaved.”

Notes on a Silencing by Lacy Crawford [Amazon | Bookshop]

In this searing book, Crawford tells the story of coming forward during the state investigation of the elite New England prep school decades after her assault, only to find for the first time evidence that corroborated her memories. Here were depictions of the naïve, hardworking girl she’d been, as well as astonishing proof of an institutional silencing. The slander, innuendo, and lack of adult concern that Crawford had experienced as a student hadn’t been imagined; they were the actions of a school that prized its reputation above anything, even a child. This revelation launched Crawford on an extraordinary inquiry deep into gender, privilege, and power, and the ways shame and guilt are used to silence victims. Insightful, arresting, and beautifully written, Notes on a Silencing wrestles with an essential question for our time: What telling of a survivor’s story will finally force a remedy?

.

We Believe You by Annie Clark and Andrea Pino [Amazon | Unavailable on Bookshop]

More than one in five women and 5 percent of men are sexually assaulted while at college. Some survivors are coming forward; others are not. In We Believe You, students from every kind of college and university―large and small, public and private, highly selective and less so―share experiences of trauma, healing, and everyday activism, representing a diversity of races, economic and family backgrounds, gender identities, immigration statuses, interests, capacities, and loves. Theirs is a bold, irrefutable sampling of voices and stories that should speak to all.

Secret Survivors: Real-Life Stories To Give You Hope For Healing by Jen Howver and Megan Hutchinson [Amazon | Bookshop]

Written for teens, but also incredibly helpful to anyone working with students, Secret Survivors tells the compelling, true stories of people who have lived through painful secrets. As teens read stories about rape, addiction, cutting, abuse, abortion, and more, they’ll identify with the universal pain in each story and find the strength to share their own story and start healing.

Human Trafficking

Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System by Cyntoia Brown-Long [Amazon | Bookshop]

At the age of sixteen, Cyntoia Brown, a survivor of human trafficking, was arrested for killing a man who had picked her up for sex. Two years later, she was sentenced to life in prison. Brown reflects on the isolation, low self-esteem, and sense of alienation that drove her straight into the hands of a predator. In these pages, Cyntoia shares the details of her transformation, including a profound encounter with God, an unlikely romance, an unprecedented outpouring of support from social media advocates and A-list celebrities, and her release from prison. A coming-of-age memoir set against the shocking backdrop of a life behind bars, Free Cyntoia takes you on a spiritual journey as Cyntoia struggles to overcome a lifetime of feeling ostracized and abandoned by society.

The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine by Somaly Mam [Amazon | Unavailable on Bookshop]

Born in a village deep in the Cambodian forest, Somaly Mam was sold into sexual slavery by her grandfather when she was twelve years old. Trapped in this dangerous and desperate world, she suffered the brutality and horrors of human trafficking—rape, torture, deprivation—until she managed to escape with the help of a French aid worker.  Written in exquisite, spare, unflinching prose, The Road of Lost Innocence recounts the experiences of her early life and tells the story of her awakening as an activist and her harrowing and brave fight against the powerful and corrupt forces that steal the lives of these girls. Her memoir will leave you awestruck by her tenacity and courage and will renew your faith in the power of an individual to bring about change.

Return to Book Recommendations Home | Workbooks & Journals | Books About Facing Trauma | Books About Healing and Moving Forward | Fiction Books | Non-Fiction Books