My father was sexually abused as a boy. I found this out when I was thirty-five years old. Was I shocked? Not really â€“ he was raised with violence and abuse, in a very dysfunctional system. The abuse was accepted as normal, I get that now. The fact that it was treated as normal made it all okay. Iâ€™m thirty-six years old as I write my story, it is just a story. I am no longer attached to my story. My story used to be everything, it justified all the anger and rage. I thought that my story was who I was. I offer my story to all who have been abused, also to the abuser, also to those who would like to understand abuse. All who have not yet let go of their story.
His story is a familiar one in ex-Mormon circles. Mormonism is especially attractive to people and families suffering from abuse. People see these beautiful, smiling, perfect Mormon families and think: “If we were Mormon, we’d be happy like that too.”
In such cases, Mormonism isn’t the root cause of the abuse, but can often exacerbate the problem instead of helping. Once the family joins the church, Mormon culture encourages them to cover up the abuse, and only show a beautiful, smiling, perfect exterior. Mormon teachings also often give increased authority to the abuser, teaching the rest of the family be obedient and submissive.
Todd’s story is exceptional, though, in terms of his perspective. I’ve read a lot of memoirs where the author describes having been profoundly hurt, having learned unhealthy relationship models, and passing the abuse along. Generally such stories have an edge of defensiveness, but not Todd’s story. He has taken great pains to understand where he was at and what he and others were feeling that prompted various (often poor) choices. Thus he takes responsibility for his choices and expresses regret at the harm caused by others, but without blaming and shaming. In terms of understanding the cycle of abuse — in order to break it — the story is excellent and exceptional. I’ve never read anything quite like it. And it’s inspiring to see the main character grow into a person who can view his own story in this way.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who would like more perspective on abuse and on how it affects people and families.