April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Coordinated by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, this annual campaign is designed to raise awareness and educate the public on the prevention of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse. Learn more about the history of Sexual Assault Awareness Month at nsvrc.org »

In support of this month-long campaign, below you’ll find a list of books and resources that highlight stories of survival, avenues for conversation and understanding, and direct support. Title suggestions and resources were curated by Health & Wellness Librarian Rose, Collection Management Librarian Jenna, and Director of Public Social Services & Public Safety Robert, with input from Pillars Community Health.

Join a virtual circle

Community Circle: Understanding Trauma of Sexual Violence

Monday, April 26, 4-5:15 pm. In support of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, this community circle is designed to unpack and understand the effects of trauma from sexual violence. Library staff members who are trained circle keepers will facilitate the community discussion using the model of circles, which honors our stories, community relationships, and ability to keep learning from each other. A trained clinical counselor and advocate, certified by the state of Illinois to provide crisis intervention and support, will be present at the circle for individual assistance.

Sexual violence is an umbrella term that includes any type of unwanted sexual contact—either in person or online—including sexual assault, harassment, and abuse. Sexual violence is a societal problem that can have lasting effects on survivors and their families, friends, and communities.

Find support locally, nationally

Need help or know someone who does? Want to learn more about how you can help support victims of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse? Please consider reaching out to one of these local or national organizations:


  • Pillars Community Health: Provides comprehensive services to adult and child survivors of domestic and sexual violence—including emergency shelter, crisis intervention, medical and legal advocacy, counseling, and more.
  • Sarah’s Inn: Provides comprehensive resources, support, and advocacy for victims of domestic violence.


Adult nonfiction | Adult fiction | Teens | Kids

Title suggestions for adults


Know My Name by Chanel Miller
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 readers 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.

Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl by Jeannie Vanasco
Exacting and courageous, Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl is part memoir, part true crime record, and part testament to the strength of female friendships—a recounting and reckoning that will inspire us to ask harder questions and interrogate our biases. Jeannie Vanasco examines and dismantles long-held myths of victimhood, discovering grace and power in this genre-bending investigation into the trauma of sexual violence.

Missoula: Rape & the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
From bestselling author Jon Krakauer, a stark, powerful, meticulously reported narrative about a series of sexual assaults at the University of Montana—stories that illuminate the human drama behind the national plague of campus rape.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape by Sohaila Abdulali
In the tradition of Rebecca Solnit, a beautifully written, deeply intelligent, searingly honest—and ultimately hopeful—examination of sexual assault and the global discourse on rape told through the perspective of a survivor, writer, counselor, and activist.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.

A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by Christian T Miller
Two Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists tell the riveting true crime story of a teenager charged with lying about having been raped—and the detectives who followed a winding path to arrive at the truth. Find all available formats in the catalog »

Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture—and What We Can Do About It by Kate Harding
Combining in-depth research with practical knowledge, Asking for It makes the case that twenty-first century America—where it’s estimated that out of every 100 rapes only 5 result in felony convictions—supports rapists more effectively than victims. Harding offers ideas and suggestions for addressing how we as a culture can take rape much more seriously without compromising the rights of the accused.

Girl in the Woods by Aspen Matis
On her second night of college, Aspen Matis was raped by a fellow student. Dealing with a problem that has sadly become all too common on college campuses, she stumbled through her first semester. Her desperation growing, she made a bold decision: She would seek healing in the freedom of the wild, on the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail leading from Mexico to Canada.

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Lee Dugard
Jaycee Dugard’s raw and powerful memoir, her own story of being kidnapped in 1991 and held captive for more than 18 years. Find all available formats in the catalog »

Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church: The Findings of the Investigation That Inspired the Major Motion Picture Spotlight
This is the true story of how a small group of courageous journalists uncovered child abuse on a vast scale—and held the Catholic Church to account. Betrayal is a ground-breaking work of investigative journalism, now brought brilliantly to life on the screen in the major movie Spotlight.

Lucky by Alice Sebold
In this bold memoir, Alice Sebold reveals how her life was utterly transformed when, as a college freshman, she was brutally raped and beaten in a park near campus. What propels this chronicle of her recovery is Sebold's indomitable spirit—as she struggles for understanding; as her family and friends sometimes bungle their efforts to provide comfort and support; and as she triumphs, managing to help secure her attacker's arrest and conviction. Find all available formats in the catalog »

We Believe You: Survivors of Campus Sexual Assault Speak Out by Annie E. Clark
From young activists at the forefront of the movement to end sexual assault on college campuses, a collection of survivor stories that will connect with students and inform and inspire us all.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
With humor and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the 21st century—one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences—in the U.S., in her native Nigeria, and abroad—offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
The autobiography of the renowned poet examines the anguish of her early childhood in rural Alabama, to her adolescence in St. Louis, where she is attacked by a man many times her age. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.

I Will Survive: The African-American Guide to Healing From Sexual Assault & Abuse by Lori Robinson
In this comprehensive self-help guide, Lori Robinson has created a valuable resource for African American survivors of sexual assault—as well as their families, friends, and communities. Robinson walks readers through the ways survivors can achieve emotional, physical, sexual, and spiritual healing, reflecting her firsthand insight into the particular difficulties African Americans face on their journey toward recovery. Find all available formats in the catalog »

Written on the Body: Letters From Trans & Non-Binary Survivors of Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence by Lexie Bean, Dean Spade, and Nyala Moon
Written by and for trans and non-binary survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, Written on the Body offers support, guidance, and hope for those who struggle to find safety at home, in the body, and other unwelcoming places. Find all available formats in the catalog »

Surviving the Silence: Black Women’s Stories of Rape by Charlotte Pierce-Baker
It opens with the author's harrowing and courageous account of her rape and includes the stories of the author's own family's response, plus the voices of Black men who have supported rape survivors. Find all available formats in the catalog »

Excavation by Wendy Ortiz
In Excavation, the black and white of the standard victim/perpetrator stereotype gives way to unsettling grays. The present-day narrator reflects on the girl she once was, as well as the teacher and parent she has become. It's a beautifully written and powerful story of a woman reclaiming her whole heart. Find all available formats in the catalog »


Beartown by Fredrik Backman
Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
Exploring the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a precocious yet naïve teenage girl and her magnetic and manipulative teacher, a brilliant, all-consuming read that marks the explosive debut of an extraordinary new writer.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived with her husband; when she protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now . . .

Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
Valentine is a haunting exploration of the intersections of violence and race, class and region in a story that plumbs the depths of darkness and fear, yet offers a window into beauty and hope. Told through the alternating points of view, this fierce, unflinching, and surprisingly tender novel illuminates women’s strength and vulnerability, and reminds us that it is the stories we tell ourselves that keep us alive.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Set in the author's childhood hometown of Lorain, Ohio, it tells the story of Black, 11-year-old Pecola Breedlove. Pecola prays for her eyes to turn blue so that she will be as beautiful and beloved as all the blond, blue-eyed children in America. In the autumn of 1941, Pecola's life changed—in painful, devastating ways. The Bluest Eye remains one of Toni Morrisons's most powerful, unforgettable novels—and a significant work of American fiction.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Color Purple broke the silence around domestic and sexual abuse, narrating the lives of women through their pain and struggle, companionship and growth, resilience and bravery. Deeply compassionate and beautifully imagined, Alice Walker's epic carries readers on a spirit-affirming journey towards redemption and love.

Title suggestions for teens

Exit, Pursued by A Bear by E. K. Johnston
Heartbreaking and empowering, Exit, Pursued by a Bear is the story of transcendent friendship in the face of trauma.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
In Laurie Halse Anderson's powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake
With sensitivity and openness, this timely novel confronts the difficult questions surrounding consent, victim-blaming, and sexual assault.

The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith
Told in four parts—freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year—this provocative debut reveals the deep cuts of trauma. But it also demonstrates one young woman’s strength as she navigates the disappointment and unbearable pains of adolescence, of first love and first heartbreak, of friendships broken and rebuilt, and while learning to embrace a power of survival she never knew she had hidden within her heart.

All the Rage by Courtney Summers
With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?

Asking for It by Louise O’Neil
Emma O'Donovan is 18 years old, happy, confident. One night, there's a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma. The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can't remember what happened, how she got there, or why she's in pain. But everyone else does. Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don't want to believe what’s right in front of them…

Grown by Tiffany D Jackson
When legendary R&B artist Korey Fields spots Enchanted Jones at an audition, her dreams of being a famous singer take flight. Until Enchanted wakes up with blood on her hands and zero memory of the previous night. Before there was a dead body, Enchanted's dreams had turned into a nightmare. Behind Korey's charm and star power was a controlling dark side. Now he's dead, the police are at the door, and all signs point to Enchanted.

Title suggestions for kids

C is for Consent by Eleanor Morrison & Faye Orlove
The book teaches that it is okay for kids to say no to hugs and kisses, and that what happens to their body is up to them. This helps children grow up confident in their bodies, comfortable with expressing physical boundaries, and respectful of the boundaries of others. Ages 2-5. Find all available formats in the catalog »

The Summer of Owen Todd by Todd Abbott
This harrowing and sensitively told tale of child abuse is a must-read for anyone who might ever be called upon to help a friend in need. Ages 10-14. Find all available formats in the catalog »

Let’s Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent & Respect by Jayneen Sanders
Teaching young children about body boundaries, both theirs and others, is crucial to a child's growing sense of self, their confidence, and how they should expect to be treated by others. Ages 4-8. Find all available formats in the catalog »

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
In this powerful novel that explores the stigma around child sexual abuse and leavens an intense tale with compassion and humor, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley tells a story about two sisters, linked by love and trauma, who must find their own voices before they can find their way back to each other. Ages 10-14.

The Ship We Built by Lexie Bean
Tender and wise, The Ship We Built is about the bravery it takes to stand up for yourself–even to those you love–and the power of finding someone who treasures you for everything you are. Ages 10-14.

Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept by Jayneen Sanders
Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept is a beautifully illustrated children's picture book that sensitively broaches the subject of keeping children safe from inappropriate touch. Ages 4-10. Find all available formats in the catalog »

I Said No! A Kid-to-Kid Guide to Keeping Private Parts Private by Zach King
Helping kids set healthy boundaries for their private parts can be a daunting and awkward task for parents, counselors, and educators. Written from a kid's point of view, I Said No! makes this task a lot easier. To help Zack cope with a real-life experience he had with a friend, he and his mom wrote a book to help prepare other kids to deal with a range of problematic situations. Ages 5-10. Find all available formats in the catalog »

Chirp by Kate Messner
From acclaimed author Kate Messner comes the powerful story of a young girl with the courage to make her voice heard, set against the backdrop of a summertime mystery. Ages 10-14.

When You Know What I Know by Sonja Solter
A sensitive, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful novel in verse about one girl's journey in the aftermath of abuse. Ages. 8-12. Find all available formats in the catalog »