At first glance, you might never guess that The Trailokya Trilogy, an epic fantasy that taps science, horror and the paranormal, also taps social issues.
Social justice is something that I feel very deeply about. My writing has always carried with it some aspect that addresses some social issues, whether it is women’s equality, race, animal rights or the environment. I chose to touch minimally upon animal rights, whereas race remains a consistent nuance framing the characters and their world. While feminism is a topic I don’t shy away from, violence against women (men and children, too), is something I have avoided to a large extent.
The topic is fraught with emotion. There are those who desperately fight to reduce the number of victims each year, with active involvement in shelters and the media, while there is that faction who attempts to keep such things swept under the rug. Take, for instance, the blow back against rape victims. There is always a group who is ready with name calling and blaming the victim, quite quick to exonerate the perpetrator. They disregard evidence, and cite false equivalencies such as ‘women are always blaming men for rape to get something out of them‘—usually money or fame. This group ignores that only 2-8% of cases that actually come forward are considered false reports. That means that 98-92% are true. If you asked me, getting a grade of 2-8% would mean you utterly failed, but if you got a grade of 92-98%, you’d be considered a stellar student. Why, then, are the infrequent occurrences of false accusation held as worth more than all the true cases combined? This further ignores the men, women and children intimidated into recanting their stories. When we see things like what singer Kesha is going through, is there any wonder why 68% go unreported?
Much the same narrative follows Domestic Violence around. Women are still at higher risk than men, but every conversation starts with dismissing women by saying “men are victims as well.” Of course they are, but not at the rate of women. “Domestic Violence is the single greatest cause of injury to women.” (DVIP Iowa). Yet, society seeks to sweep sexual abuse and domestic violence under the rug. Theories abound about why that is, from patriarchy trying to enable this type of crime to denial to save our psyches from the trauma of the crimes’ reality. Whatever it is, things are starting to finally swing in the other direction and conversations are being had. Still, conversations don’t always save lives. Economic pressures, heightened social issues such as terrorism, political change and a slew of other factors affect the rise in violence.
One of the reasons that I wrote about domestic violence in Trailokya is that I wanted to tell a truth, to have some catharsis around my own experiences with violence. However, I did not want my experience to overshadow the narrative to where it was unrelatable. This is because my additional intent was to perhaps create a way in which to tell someone who might be experiencing DV: there is a way out, this is happening and you need to figure out your next steps to get safe again, and, most importantly, that they should not blame themselves. Domestic abusers seek victims, and they set up those people to fall into their traps time and again. You can’t win with an abuser, and they feed on that. It breaks you down, while it makes them feel stronger and more in control.
Certainly a lot of the scenes are fantastical, with paranormal entities skittering about the frame and heroes sweeping in on wing. That doesn’t alter the facts of what is happening, and has happened to Maiel. Her isolation from those she works with, as well as family and friends is well underway by the time readers are introduced to her in the first chapter. The stunning duta met in the prologue is more mature now, but there is also a darkness, as though a shadow casts over her. She is hardened, quite serious, if not sullen. She does her work, and she returns home as soon as things are resolved, as if her first duty is to check-in with her husband. She is tense around him and he is sarcastic, if not needling. Maiel is unable to communicate with him effectively. Is this fear? She appears to expect punishment, but somehow sees it as coming from other places outside the home.
On top of displaying the dynamics of a domestic abuse relationship, I made sure that this was happening to someone that the reader would never imagine such a thing happening to. Captain Maiel is a duta. To be a duta is to be far stronger than humans, sure of mind and never fooled. Yet, here she is under the yoke of a human who has worn her down over the years, molded her into a controllable non-person—despite being the mother of his children, his lover and wife. For him, Maiel is something to have sex with, to portray in paintings as an object and the thing that will save him in the end. The latter is the most important thing to him and he ignores the humanity of his wife in that desire.
As the trilogy progresses, the violence does as well. This is because Dominic, her husband, is losing control over the situation. Stress is being put upon him and he escalates. We see Maiel, either as herself or Holly, trying to see where she went wrong, or trying to hold onto the man she remembers in the face of the man she now sees. Holly and Maiel both make excuses, tied to the relationship by the idea that she must stay for the sake of love and duty.
Sadly, sexual violence, including domestic violence, is portrayed in film and books to titillate the audience instead of existing as testament to the reality of the human condition, and something we should strive to eradicate as an unacceptable form of suffering.
If you do a google search on memes regarding women, you’ll find pages of images that objectify women as sex toys, and those that poke fun at rape and violence against women—almost pretending that men who commit such acts are heroes and that kind of guy is who any guy would really want to be. Is it funny? Not in the least. It wouldn’t be funny in the reverse either (don’t be absurd by asking that).
The tone of my books take the topic quite seriously, displaying not titillation but the horror of this reality. The reader will be witness to every moment, and they will have to survive this struggle right beside Maiel/Holly. The fearless captain will either cow or rise. The reader will come away from the books better understanding the answer to the questions: why do they stay? And, how does this even happen to someone?