Psyche logo

This Novel Shows the Reality of Surviving Sexual Abuse and Finding Happiness

'Catalyst': An Honest Look at Becoming Healthy

By Alex CaseyPublished 5 years ago 3 min read
Catalyst by Judith Moore

Catalyst, available for free on Wattpad, is a novel that looks realistically at healing after childhood sexual abuse and, perhaps most importantly, helps romantic partners understand what to do during the flashbacks and after awkward situations.

On the surface, it’s a sweet, romantic story of college freshmen Ra’Shelle Dawson and Colin Brown. Both students are survivors but have coped with their experiences very differently. After completing years of therapy, Colin is able to provide advice and unconditional empathy to help Ra’Shelle wrestle with her own demons.

The following seven themes will ring true to survivors and their loved ones.

Coping with Nightmares, Flashbacks, and Anxiety

From experiencing panic attacks after every shower, to becoming paralyzed during a sudden flashback, Ra’Shelle experiences all of the symptoms of PTSD that sexual abuse survivors know well. With immense empathy, Colin’s reactions are what survivors often want in a partner.

Feeling Small and Manipulated

No matter the type of abuse, abusers have a hold on their victims that can be difficult to explain. Even the strongest person can feel weak and powerless, especially if the abuser is a relative or communication is unexpected. This book doesn’t pretend that adult survivors are suddenly invincible or can’t instantly revert into a child-like state.

Nevertheless, it also shows what can happen when victims learn to defend themselves in an effort to ensure their safety. Although some of Ra’Shelle’s reactions should be applauded and admired, her constant hypervigilance means that she doesn’t always respond appropriately to dangerous situations. What happens when the instinct to fight becomes the first response?

Understanding Intimacy as a Trigger

While certainly an unconventional romance, it’s difficult not to categorize parts of this book as erotica, as it details how perfectly innocent intimate moments can trigger an unexpected attack. Tender moments give way to tears, apologies, and hyperventilation. The power of empathy and patience cannot be overstated, as the story transitions between steamy, heartbreaking, and loving.

Being Failed by the System

Police officers don’t investigate effectively, prosecutors refuse to take the case, or juries find the pedophile innocent. Catalyst examines if closure is possible when the legal system abandons a victim.

Standing Up to an Abuser—and the Guilt Associated with Assertiveness

In some cases, a survivor is able to find closure through confronting their offender. For example, a victim has a heated phone call demanding the abuser cease contact and leave them alone. Nevertheless, it’s natural to second-guess oneself and even try to contact the person, again. Ra’Shelle shows us the different reactions and thought processes between the fear of being found, the courage to defend, and the guilt of walking away from a powerful force.

Having a Compassionate Partner and Other Supportive Individuals

Revictimization is common, as survivors find themselves caught in abusive relationships or surrounded by manipulative users. However, falling in love with an understanding partner and surrounding oneself with people who care about and support you can make all the difference to the healing process. Although her self-absorbed best friend doesn’t really understand the situation, Ra’Shelle finds people who do and builds a support system of positive influencers.

Experiencing Real Life

Certainly the main story revolves around the tender, honest relationship between Ra’Shelle and Colin. Nevertheless, Catalyst isn't standard ChickLit or romance. The side stories consist of murder, parenthood, fashion design, and coping with the day-to-day stressors of college and work. Although being abused certainly changes one’s life, it doesn’t stop it. The world continues, for better and worse, and Catalyst isn’t scared to continue the story of everyday (and unusual) events.


All victims heal differently, but this book shows that healing is possible. Although listening to Ra’Shelle share her horrific story breaks our hearts, watching her grow gives us hope. We too can love, eat ice cream, and be happy.

book reviews

About the Creator

Alex Casey

I'm a full-time educator and part-time writer. My best ideas usually end up on Vocal.

Enjoyed the story?
Support the Creator.

Subscribe for free to receive all their stories in your feed. You could also pledge your support or give them a one-off tip, letting them know you appreciate their work.

Subscribe For Free

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


Alex Casey is not accepting comments at the moment

Want to show your support? Send them a one-off tip.

Alex CaseyWritten by Alex Casey

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.