Literature in Person

Author visits Ferris to teach students how to write about their own trauma

In a series of events called “Literature in Person,” various authors are invited to the Ferris’ campus to speak about their books and experiences.

The most recent invite to campus was Karen Stefano, author of a memoir on her experience with sexual assault. Stefano’s book, called “What a Body Remembers: A Memoir of Sexual Assault and Its Aftermath,” tells the story of how she was assaulted at knife point at 19 years old outside of her apartment.

“The twist is that I work for the campus police department and my job is to escort women home in my police uniform to keep them safe, but I’m not wearing my police uniform and got assaulted,” Stefano said.

The memoir also discusses Stefano’s career in the criminal justice field following the assault.

“And then it shows my crash course in the criminal justice system, then it’s fast forwards to the paradoxical time in my life when I actually became a criminal defense lawyer. Fast forward again to 2014, where I still have PTSD and I track down my assailant from 30 years earlier and what I find out about him kind of changes my world,” Stefano said.

Stefano said it is important for people to read the book because it educates people on the criminal justice system and provides a sense of empowerment gained from sharing the story of a sexual assault from the perspective of a survivor.

“It’s an unusual story that I went to law school to become a prosecutor to put away bad guys, I ended up doing the opposite, I ended up representing those bad guys and caring about them deeply and seeing their humanity in spite of their very significant flaws,” Stefano said.

The story was moving to students who attended the event, and many expressed the topic was a very important one to focus on, as well as the stories behind those experiences.

“I came here because I want to learn more about writing. Being an English major and being an English teacher someday, I want to learn more about how people communicate through writing and how they use language to tell their own stories, and this sounded like it would be a really impactful story, and it was, so I’m really glad that I came,” Ferris English education junior Colin Templeman said.

Other students came to be able to show their support for a sexual assault survivor.

“I wanted to come out and support the series [of Literature in Person Events], and the topic is really interesting and a really relevant topic for today. Assault is a huge, huge thing, and so many women are just now coming out, and so many women aren’t coming out. I thought it was a really powerful story, and I wanted to learn more,” Ferris English senior Paige Brady said.

In the spring semester, Poet M.L. Liebler is expected to visit for National Poetry Month in April.

Look for signs around campus and find the event on the Ferris website for more information around the end of the Poetry Month celebrations.