‘A memoir about standing up, speaking out and fighting back’

I have seen this book pretty much everywhere, and with such a beautiful cover and being shortlisted for numerous awards I had to pick up a copy to see what it is all about.

We follow the story of Bri who goes to work as an associate for a Judge for a year. Bri is exposed to many different criminal cases which she would get to hear every little detail, which some are pretty grim. I did not realise the amount of sexual offending cases that would appear before a court, it is a lot. The sheer amount of cases sparks a memory of Bri’s childhood where she herself was sexually assaulted herself. We follow her dilemma of whether she should come forward and report it and the implications this may bring. She witnesses cases being kicked out of court, witnesses and victims not being believed and the impact emotionally and physically it not only has on the victim but the ripple effect it has on families and the wider community.

Bri herself reports the crime, we witness first hand her turmoil she goes through and runs through her head about the forthcoming case. Her frustrations. Her issues with the Australian Criminal Justice System and the negative impact this has on sexual abuse victims. What Bri reflects is usually the offender is someone known to the victim’s family, which makes coming forward incredibly difficult and probably means that the person would not be believed because of how close of a relationship they may have, or whether there was a messy breakup and repercussions from this.

Throughout this book I was Bri’s cheerleader, and willing her to be strong and continue her fight to seek a conviction against the perpetrator, a family friend. You got the sense that Bri did not want to disappoint her family and was concerned whether her family would believe her and walk away from her. However, her family were incredibly strong for her and stood by her no matter what. Even Bri’s boyfriend, Vincent was always there for her and supported her whenever she needed it.

We experience firsthand, all of Bri’s emotions the ups and downs you feel them yourself. What I came to realise was there is still a long way to go when it comes to the Criminal Justice System dealing with sexual offences both with the perpetrator and the victim. More time, more resources and more money need to be invested. I believe talking to victims and finding out what can be done to improve the system they went through would be of a great benefit. There is a lot of learning to be done.

One of my favourite characters in the book was Bri’s Judge. He seemed to be supportive, funny, compassionate and realistic. When he was aware of what happened to Bri, he was there and supported as and when Bri needed.

I adored this book and Bri, she was brutally honest about what she went through, her feelings and her thoughts even when they were pretty ugly. Bri does not hide the amount of sexual abuse and sexual misconduct going on without a lot of it not being reported and victims going unheard. It at times makes an uncomfortable read, but there is light and the frankness within the book in a way is reassuring. Bri reflects how the justice system lacks any empathy or forward-thinking approach on how to deal with sexual assault victims which made me both sad and angry. The justice system seems to continue to be letting people down. You follow Bri’s personal diary of her thoughts and feelings about particular cases she is hearing. She is brutally honest, I sometimes feel that she is punishing herself about what happened to herself. It was not her fault, she was so young and did not really know what was going on. But Bri was unable to break down what happened and who was at fault because it is such a life changing event that happened to her.

Bri is a talented and a frank writer which I respect and will continue to look out for more of her work in the future. If you have to read one book this year, this is one that should be on your to be read list. It will certainly give you some food for thought…….

About the Book

Eggshell skull; a well-established legal doctrine that a defendant must ‘take their victim as they find them’. If a single punch kills someone because of their thin skill, that victim’s weakness cannot mitigate the seriousness of the crime.

But what if it also works the other way? What if a defendant on trial for sexual crimes has to accept his ‘victim’ as she comes a strong, determined accuser who knows the legal system who will not back down until justice is done?

Bri Lee began her first day of work at the Queensland District Court as a bright-eyed judge’s associate. Two years later she was back as the complainant in her own case.

This is the story of Bri’s journey through the Australian legal system, first as the daughter of a policeman, then as a law student, and finally as a judge’s associate in both metropolitan and regional Queensland – where justice can look very different especially for women. The injustice Bri witnessed, mourned and raged over every day finally forced her to confront her own personal history, one she vowed never to tell and this is how after years of struggle, she found herself on the other side of the courtroom, telling her story.

Eggshell Skull is published by Allen & Unwin and is available to purchase here.

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