What motivated Stieg Larsson to write "Girl with a Dragon Tatoo"?
Dear Engaged Bystander: The Merriam Webster definition of a bystander is: “one present, but not taking part in a situation or event: a chance spectator.” When I read this definition, it implies that we can watch an event and not be affected by it. Even the term, “bystander apathy” implies that people can watch and then choose not act because they don’t care. I believe that people care deeply stopping sexual violence and are deeply affected by what they see -- even if they choose not to act.
I recently read about a new memoir of the author Stieg Larsson (author of the bestselling “Millenium series” that begins with the book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). According to Kurdo Baksi, a longtime friend, the reason Larsson writes books about avenging sexual violence against women is because of Larsson’s guilt over failing to act.
In his book about Larsson, Baksi describes how Larsson watched the gang rape of a 15 year old girl and did nothing. Larsson later asked the girl to forgive him, and she did not. This rape haunted Larsson his entire life and Baski claims that this guilt fueled the subject of his crime novels.
The story is deeply disturbing, so I wanted to caution anyone who might want to read more about this article, “Stieg Larsson Silent as Real-Life Lisbeth Raped.” However, story is encouraging too because it points to the fact that we are not innocent bystanders – what we see deeply affect us all. In this case, it led Larsson to a life of fighting for social justice.
I find hope in this story. I know in my work, many survivors tell me that if even one person is helped by sharing their pain, it can make that pain a little less painful. If everyone affected by sexual violence decides to say something or do something, then we will have more than enough people to change how we respond to sexual violence.