The courage to be me – Press

The courage to be me is an illustrated book based on research data that tells the story of a group of women who are beginning to rebuild their lives after rape or sexual abuse.

For a word version of this page and a press release click here.


How do you rebuild your life after rape or sexual abuse? This is a challenge that millions of people are living with but the story about life after abuse rarely gets told. Our silence means that many people live with their abuse in isolation and struggle to ask for the help they need and deserve.

The courage to be me has been written to send a message of hope to anyone living with the impact of rape or sexual abuse. Using a combination of science, storytelling and illustration the book tells the story of a group of women who come together to face their past and build their future.

Reading the book will help you understand the journey that someone needs to go on to rebuild their life after sexual abuse and see why the people who have the courage to go on this journey are amongst the most courageous people you could ever wish to meet.

Press coverage

The courage to be me in The Guardian

Dr Nina Burrowes on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour

Why is this book needed?

The people who pay the greatest price for our silence about rape and sexual abuse are the victims of these crimes. Our silence is understandable. Sexual abuse is both frightening and confusing. But when we hide from our fears by avoiding conversations about the realities of abuse we create a situation that forces victims to carry their experience in isolation.

The courage to be me has been written to break that silence. It’s only by talking about the realities of sexual abuse that we can create an environment that gives victims the support they need and deserve.

Feedback about the book

Feedback from reviews on Amazon:

“The best book on the subject I have ever come across”

“Right in front of me were my own feelings and fears that I dared never speak of, that I held in me because I thought it was only me who felt that way… suddenly it wasn’t just me anymore and that is why this book is so special.”

“I found myself crying, smiling and even laughing at different points as I saw my own journey, hopes and fears reflected in this work”

“The world needs this book”

You can read more reviews about the book here.

Who is this book for?

This book has been written to send a message of hope to anyone who is living with the impact of rape or sexual abuse. Whilst anyone who has experienced abuse is likely to benefit from reading the book it has been specifically designed for the person who isn’t currently accessing any support services. If you were to count this group you would have to count them in their millions.

The wider audience for this book is anyone who would like to understand recovery from sexual abuse better – either because they know someone who has experienced sexual abuse or because they simply want to understand this topic area better.

What is special about this book?

The courage to be me uniquely combines science, storytelling and illustration to deliver useful content in a way that is easy for the reader to engage with and understand. The use of storytelling and illustration means that the reader is able to emotionally connect with the characters, to emphasise with them, and to hear messages that would otherwise be difficult to hear.

By being freely available on the internet the book is designed to be accessible to the people who need it most – the person who is still living in an abusive relationship, the person who can’t afford to buy a book, and the person who doesn’t feel ready to go into a shop and buy a book about sexual abuse.

What is the story behind this book?

In early 2013 I had the privilege of meeting the most courageous group of women I’ve ever met. Their courage isn’t one you’ll read about in the papers. It isn’t celebrated. It isn’t talked about. All of the women had experienced rape or sexual abuse and all of them were on the journey of rebuilding their lives. I met the women because I was conducting some research interviews with them about their experiences of group therapy.

Many of the women struggled to tell me their stories. They struggled to find the words. They struggled to simply be in the room. But greater than this struggle was their determination. Their courage was in their willingness to sit with their discomfort so that they could continue to tell me their stories.

The stories they told me were of feeling isolated and alone; feeling broken and defective; feeling ashamed and guilty. Their stories of therapy were ones of feeling heard and accepted; of discovering their own strength through each other; of rediscovering themselves; of feeling hopeful for the first time.

Having listened to these women and watched their struggle to tell me their stories I asked them why they had chosen to come in and talk to me. They told me that if the research project helped one other person then everything they had been through would be worth it.

I heard them.

The courage to be me is my way of celebrating their courage in a way that I hope inspires other people to find their own.

About the author

Dr Nina Burrowes is a psychologist and researcher specialising in forensic psychology. Nina was previously employed by HM Prison Service to conduct research with sex offenders and since then has established herself as an independent research consultant specialising in sexual abuse. Her research work on sexual abuse has included work with perpetrators, victims, and the public. More information on Nina’s research work, including her portfolio of research projects and opinion pieces can be found here.

It was whilst working on a groundbreaking report on the psychological aspects of prosecuting rape cases that Nina decided to begin producing content that would help the public understand rape and sexual abuse. The courage to be me is the first instalment in a body of work that will cover the psychology of rape and sexual abuse.

Learning to draw has been part of Nina’s journey. Initially drawing was used as a way of unwinding from her day job but she soon realised that illustrated content would be an ideal way to help people engage with difficult and confusing topics. Nina is also the author of The little book on authenticity.

The illustrators

The courage to be me is also illustrated by Alexander Bertram-Powell, Katie Green, Jade Sarson and Heather Wilson.