Michelle Bowdler

Award-winning writer and Public Health Executive

Michelle Bowdler is an award-winning writer and public health executive. Bowdler’s first book Is Rape a Crime? was longlisted for the 2020 National Book Award for Nonfiction, and named a Best Book for 2020 by TIME Magazine, Publishers Weekly, Book Page and the Boston Globe.

Michelle is a recipient of a 2017 Barbara Deming Memorial Award for non-fiction and has been a Fellow at Ragdale and MacDowell Colony. She has been published in the New York Times and in the anthologies The Anatomy of Silence (Red Press) and We Rise to Resist: Voices from a New Era in Women’s Political Action (McFarland). Her essays: Eventually You Tell Your Kids and Babelogue were both nominated for Pushcart Prizes.

Michelle has worked in the public health field for years on issues of addiction, violence prevention, sexual health, HIV education and prevention. She has been involved, as well, for over a decade working on social justice issues related to rape and crimes of violence. Currently, she has the pleasure and honor of working as Executive Director of Health & Wellness at a major university in Boston where her work involves efforts to provide excellent sexual assault prevention and treatment for students in addition to mental health and health care.

Bowdler is a graduate of Brandeis University, where she studied and fell in love with literature and writing, and of the Harvard School of Public Health, where she learned that so much of healthcare access and outcomes have a social and cultural component.

She is married to a wonderful woman and they have two awesome children.

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IS RAPE A CRIME?A Memoir, an Investigation, and a Manifesto
Flatiron Books

Is Rape a Crime? is an expert blend of memoir and cultural investigation, and Michelle's story is a rallying cry to reclaim our power and right our world.

Sexual Assault Reform – Our Current State and a Path Forward So much of what society thinks we understand about sex crimes is incomplete and impacts our ability to make meaningful change. This talk addresses the larger history of how rape survivors move through various systems whether they be law enforcement, medical and mental health services, college campuses, or the criminal justice system. Included in this conversation is how minimization of rape and sexual assault by society at large, including legislators and the criminal justice system reinforce structural racism and misogyny. This presentation can be tailored for a specific audience and their interests and needs.
The Impact of Trauma – Learning to Respond Optimally to those Impacted by Sexual Assault -- Personally and Professionally While trauma is a topic widely written about, there still often remains a discomfort and lack of basic understanding of how to respond effectively to someone who has experienced significant trauma. In this talk, the speaker distills many of the academic descriptions of trauma into a straightforward conversation about how trauma impacts an individual as well as how it can affect their relationships, work life, willingness to seek care and the ways we can work to minimize its harm in our interactions with a survivor.
Everything I Thought I Knew -- Finding a Way to Embrace a New Phase of Parenting as Your Emerging Adult Child Leaves Home When our children are young, many of us believe our role is to protect them, keep them safe, and soften the inevitable pain they experience -- from issues as devastating as the loss of a loved one to something as inevitable and common as being excluded from a friend event, not being picked for a team, or struggling with school work. As our children grow and prepare to leave home, our parenting is challenged. Our emerging adult children need to separate while also still needing some continued emotional support. How to pay attention to our instincts to protect our children while also working to respect their needs to grow, learn to take responsibility for their decisions and recover from their own mistakes can be a hard adjustment for parents and guardians. As someone who has worked for 25 years on a college campus in health and mental health care delivery and a parent myself, Bowdler speaks to these complexities and offers some gentle suggestions and support.

Read Michelle’s essay  “When Your Memoir has the Word ‘Rape’ in its Title.”  on Literary Hub, Nov 16, 2020           

Check out Michelle’s article  “After Rape, a Welcomed Return to Self”  for Psychology Today, November 6th, 2020

“The Boston Globe”  reviewed Bowdler’s Is Rape a Crime?

Michelle was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Read Michelle’s essay “Eventually You Tell Your Kids” for Left Hooks Lit Journal”

Check out Michelle’s op-ed for The New York Times 

Read about Michelle’s interview with Taylor McNeil,  “Tufts Now”  for Psychology Today, November 6th, 2020

Follow Michelle on Twitter and check out his personal website.

Praise for Is Rape a Crime?

“In her stellar, unsettling book, Bowdler, seeks answers—about why her own case disappeared, but also why America seems so comfortable continuously, systemically failing survivors.”
TIME Magazine

"This standout memoir marks a crucial moment in the discussion of what constitutes a violent crime."
Publishers Weekly, Best Books of 2020

"Is Rape a Crime? is a unique intervention in the memoir and social justice genres. Bowdler is an uncommonly gifted writer. She is thoughtful even when describing horrible wrongs; lucid and captivating even when describing the sort of psychic pain that typically eludes words."
—Moira Donegan, The Guardian

“The inquiry Michelle Bowdler poses in the title of her debut book, “Is Rape a Crime?: A Memoir, an Investigation, and a Manifesto,” is neither a trick nor a rhetorical question. It is an indictment of one of the most glaring contradictions of the US criminal justice system.”
The Boston Globe

"Bowdler’s combined memoir and manifesto is provocative and illuminating.”

“A brave, illuminating book that’s difficult to read and impossible to put down."
Brandeis Magazine / On the Bookshelf

“An urgent, necessary, stark exploration of one of the most horrific violations that can happen to a human being.”

“This is a brilliant study of how society views rape.”
Publishers Weekly