Creating Change Through Storytelling

In 2011 The Voices and Faces Project launched "The Stories We Tell," the country's first testimonial writing workshop for survivors of sexual violence, domestic violence and trafficking.   Created by writer R. Clifton Spargo, a founding member of CounterQuo and currently an Arts Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the program brought together a diverse community of survivors, each seeking to write and speak out about sexual violence.  

Over the course of the reading and writing focused two-day program, which debuted at the Chicago Cultural Center, workshop participants engaged in an innovative series of writing exercises that emphasized fiction, creative non-fiction, memoir, and poetry. During one such exercise, participants were asked to write about sexual violence from the perspective of someone of a different sexual orientation or gender.  At that time, workshop participant Christa Desir conceived the idea for a YA (young adult) novel, written from the perspective of a male high school student whose girlfriend is raped at a party - a scenario that those of us working on sexual violence issues have encountered all too often.  

When Christa read her piece out loud during the workshop, we knew that she had written something special.  What we did not know was exactly how special: coming out of the workshop, and with the encouragement of the Voices and Faces Project team, Christa expanded that initial writing exercise into a novel, and subsequently sold her book to Simon Pulse (a division of Simon and Schuster that targets the young adult audience).  "TRAINWRECK," a compassionate and candid exploration of the gang rape of a high school student and the responses of her friends, boyfriend and community to that tragedy, is an important and much-needed book - one that will reach high school students "where they are" with a message that they very much need to hear.  It will be published in fall, 2013.   

Books like Christa's have the potential to do more than engage.  They have the power to create change by showing the heartbreaking and all-to-human costs of sexual violence.  In a world in which the media too often celebrates violence against women and girls, we believe that TRAINWRECK will provide a very different perspective - one that can lead to a more compassionate and activist public response to sexual violence.     

To read more about The Voices and Faces Project Testimonial Writing Workshop, visit:

 To read Christa's blog post about the Publisher's Weekly announcement of the forthcoming publication of  TRAINWRECK, visit