Author and music producer Ian Brennan will talk at Blackwells about surviving rape as the partner of a victim

In a nutshell, as strange as it sounds: I am a Grammy-winning music producer (Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Tinariwen, Malawi Mouse Boys), author, and violence prevention “expert”.

My third book, the novella Sister Maple Syrup Eyes, is being published this autumn. Though it is a work of literary fiction, the writing was inspired by my own experience at age 21, when the course of my life was altered by a rape.

I know full well that as a white, middle-class male, I am setting myself up as a bit of a target or lightning rod on this topic. But the whole point of the endeavour is that as infinitesimal as a peripheral person’s pain is compared to the actual victim, the effects of sexual violence are so severe that they can nonetheless be devastating. Ultimately, everyone touched by it is a victim, including, to a large degree, even the perpetrator themselves.

I started working in locked psychiatric wards as a teenager. Having been raised with a “retarded” sister, an emotionally unstable parent, and being the descendant of a long line of bipolar individuals on both sides of the family, mental health was an eerily familiar environment to me. The skills that I further refined there led to my being asked to train fellow staff members on how to manage crisis— particularly their own emotions in response to another’s anger.

In lecturing on violence prevention for the past 23 years I have been placed in a privileged position, one in which many people have felt comfortable enough to share with me some of their own tragic experiences.

If my book lends solace in some small way to even one person that has had a similarly destructive experience, and/or if it helps nudge someone out of secrecy and silence to seek help, then the whole undertaking has been a success. I am convinced that as survivors we almost have a moral obligation to pick ourselves up after such catastrophes and rebuild with the crude materials that we’ve been left with, transforming that negative energy into something constructive.

Ian Brennan will be at Blackwells Bookshop, on Saturday, 3pm. Free.