Book Review: Rachel Matthews’ Siren raises the alarm on the issue of sexual assault in sport

Trigger Warning: this post describes sexual violence.

Siren is a work of fiction. But it’s also a story that feels disturbingly real. This book is by a Melbourne writer and academic named Rachel Matthew. It’s a searing look at a crime involving an underage schoolgirl and the reverberations this act has on the victim and the community at large.

The main character here is a rather ordinary school student named Jordi Spence. She’s 16 years old and the eldest daughter of her parents, Petra and Kane. The family are poor and they scrape by a meagre living thanks to the odd jobs that the latter can pick up when he doesn’t gamble it all away. They are also on welfare and Jordi often finds herself having to take care of her three younger siblings when her mother decides to check out and take absences.

One night Jordi decides to go clubbing in Melbourne. She lets her hair down and at the end of the night she accepts a ride home in a cab with two football players who are nearing the end of their decorated careers. Jordi crashes at the apartment of Max, one of these men. While she is asleep, the other football player forces himself on her and rapes her.

Jordi is naturally left broken and bruised by the experience. She also internalises a lot of the trauma. Jordi finds it difficult telling her best friend about what happened. And Jordi’s mother can also sense that something is up and she is worried. This book has two other main female characters, a homeless woman named Flo who is friendly with Max and Ruby, a woman that lives in Max’s apartment block.

Siren is a book that looks at this crime from a number of different perspectives. It looks at the themes of money, power and influence and how these things can negatively impact individuals who are vulnerable and powerless, and how it can be exploited by those that have an abundance of the former. This novel is a gritty and real one that tackles some issues that are important and prevalent in modern life.

This novel is a significant one when you consider that there have been at least 27 allegations involving 57 football players and club officials and no convictions to date have been made. Books like Siren continue where Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way Of Things left off because it continues the conversation that needs to be had about sexual violence and abuse. These topics are difficult ones to discuss but consider how hard this is for those who have experienced it first-hand. Siren is a book that proves that Rachel Matthew is the perfect mouthpiece for this topic and it’s one that ultimately requires further discussion.

Siren by Rachel Matthews is out now through Transit Lounge Publishing