About five or six years ago, I wrote a scene about an attempted sexual assault in my book. It's a brief scene, not even a page long. It's not a graphic scene. The perpetrator receives swift and final retribution quickly after. Even so, I remember that this particular scene was the most stressful one of my book for me to write simply because of my ability to empathize.
During the gutting and restructuring of the book I've been well aware I'll have to revisit this particular scene. Much has changed from when I originally wrote it. I've met and become close with individuals who were survivors of sexual attacks. Hearing those stories, seeing for myself the impact, from people I knew and cared about changed how I saw things. No longer was this horrendous crime something that 'happened', I was one degree of separation from it. I saw how it hurt.
Honestly, I wanted to delete it all. I still do. It's not even something that happened to me, yet the mere thought of it wrenches my gut. I'm also unsure of whether I command the level of writing necessary to properly address this scene. Too often sexual assault is used as a lazy way to progress a plot; a cheap way to characterize a character. Too often the victim is cast aside as collateral damage to anger/motivate a protagonist. I don't want my writing to be any of these things and I don't want to marginalize the real survivors.
It is a complicated and tangled event with a lot of fallout. I've decided to keep the scene and see if I'm capable of writing how the character handles it. How it becomes part of the character, but doesn't define the character. I don't pretend to be an expert on the matter, but I hope I can handle it in such a fashion that my readers can accept and still enjoy my stories.