At Windemere School for Girls, one of America’s elite private schools, Dr. Gregory Copeland is the beloved chair of the English Department. A married father with a penchant for romantic poetry—and impressionable teenage girls—he operates in plain sight for years, until one of his former students goes public with allegations of inappropriate conduct. With the help of an investigative journalist, and two additional Windemere alumnae who had relationships with Copeland as students, the unlikely quartet unites to take him down.
Set in modern-day Los Angeles, These Violent Delights is a literary exploration of the unyielding pressures and vulnerabilities that so many women and girls experience, and analyzes the ways in which our institutions and families fail to protect or defend us. A suspenseful and nuanced story told from multiple points of view, the novel examines themes of sexuality, trauma, revenge, and the American myth of liberty and justice for all.
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This book makes me angry. Not because of the book itself, but because of how much it reads like real life. This crap is happening all the time. And it makes me sick. I’ve been lucky enough to never suffer any form of sexual abuse in my life, but stories like this still scares the heck out of me and break my heart. This is some real person’s story, with a few details here and there changed. It’s disgusting.
The school cover-up hits kind of close to home too. I went to a pretty big, pretty well loved university, and I heard about plenty of instances of rape and sexual assault from friends and acquaintances. One friend even told me about a guy breaking into her dorm while she was alone and asleep. Luckily, he was a happy drunk, so they ended up just chatting for a bit and she got him out. Some of the dorms attached to mine had a string of rapes. Most of those were never mentioned by the university’s emergency alerts. Not that I’m aware that they were actively covering anything up, they just didn’t let us know about a lot of stuff that was happening.
These Violent Delights tackled all of the issues surrounding this sort of crime very well. One of the biggest issues brought up, that I think is becoming a more widely recognized issue, is that victims of sexual assault are too afraid to speak up. This because they’re afraid they won’t be believed. Sure, there are a few instances of women falsely reporting sexual assault, and I can understand why those may lead to people having a harder time believing that claim – but only from that person. As they say, she could be a “boy who cried wolf.”
“Don’t you find it interesting that these types of crimes against women- whether it’s violence, sexual assault, rape- are the only kinds we force the victim to make a case about their own innocence before even investigating?”
As in this book, one of the things making the news lately is many women coming forward together – because there is strength in numbers. So many people are predisposed to not believe women making these claims or trying to cover it up or make excuses, so of course when a greater number of women come forward it’s harder to disbelieve or quiet them all down.
This book also addresses the sentencing of rapists very well – white, well liked men (and a very few well liked men of color) get very, very short sentences, if anything, even with irrefutable evidence. Mr. Copeland seems to actually have gotten off pretty hard in this story. He was sentenced to a whole year, though that was expected to be halved. Stanford rapist Brock Turner only served three months. And that was with two eyewitnesses to the event.
The characters in this book seem to be really only ever viewed as victims. They all struggle with self hate and self doubt, and there’s really only a little bit towards the end of one of them seeming to overcome that a little. I would have liked to see a bit more of them saying “no matter what, this won’t keep me down” rather than “I hate myself for this. I can’t tell anyone about it” kind of things.
Also, while I love Jane for being so passionate about helping these women, I think her “reason” was unnecessary. Women are allowed to want to help other women without having a backstory. On the other hand, it does help show how widespread and how murky these sort of things can be.
Have you read These Violent Delights? What are your thoughts? As I’m sure you can tell, this is a subject I’m quite passionate about, and I would be quite happy to have a (polite) conversation about it.