Aspen Matis began writing when she was nine-years-old and has continued putting stories onto the page ever since. But two years ago, Matis signed a book deal with HarperCollins to write her own story. The story of a girl who, in her first year of college and second night on campus, was raped by a fellow student; a girl who turned to the college’s “conflict mediation” process and whose case was deemed “inconclusive”. In the wake of this incident, she dropped out of college and embarked on 4264.76 km hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, beginning her journey in Mexico and trekking her way to Canada. Girl in the Woods is about Matis’s experiences with the rape and the five-month hike that followed, taking readers along with her as she endured the difficult emotional and physical journey.
Writing is never an easy process, but Matis dedicated herself to the task by assuming an eight-hour a day writing schedule. Matis says, “Writing ideas, triggers ideas which means, in my experience, one day off is really two days lost. For this reason, I committed every day to showing up with all of my intelligence.” Matis knew that those with nine to five jobs don’t have the liberty of taking a day off if they happen to be suffering from writer’s block, so Matis treated the writing of Girl in the Woods as a job.
More than this, Matis is equally honored that she and her story have a part to play in the recent movement against rape culture on college campuses. As we reach the midpoint of Fall we also reach the midpoint of the “Red Zone”, the weeks between new student orientation and the American Thanksgiving break when college students are at the greatest risk of sexual assault. Now is the time to consider individuals like Matis and Colombia graduate Emma Sulkowicz, who became a some-what viral figure in the fight last year.
When asked about the movement, Matis responded, “It’s insane that it’s taken so long for the [it] to mount and gain momentum. But through social media we now have the ability to share our stories with more freedom than ever and in less confinement. They can’t silence people who have banded together to expose a broken system.” as Matis experienced first hand, the American collegiate system for dealing with rape is broken, but now, this brokenness is being recognized and a call is being put out for change.
“Now, we’re holding them accountable by telling our stories.”
Aspen will be appearing at The Femme Hour on October 24 as part of LitFest