Shattered by the Darkness: Putting the Pieces Back Together After Child Abuse by Gregory Williams is a heart-wrenching account of childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by the author’s father over many years.
The book contains detailed descriptions of sexual abuse, sometimes with multiple abusers. There is nothing gratuitously graphic in the descriptions, but readers who have had similar abuse experiences should carefully consider whether they’re at a place in their own healing to feel safe reading this kind of content.
The author clearly shows the total psychological control perpetrators wield and the guilt and shame (the “terrible twins”), along with self-blame, that are instilled in victims in order to ensure silence.
Even smaller details are powerful, like when the author described washing over and over because “it seemed that I just couldn’t get clean enough.”
The author explains that during his junior year of high school, he verbally exploded during an incident of abuse and threatened to expose his father to the world. This was what it took to finally put an end to the abuse, at least on a physical level.
Williams describes the tremendous wreckage that was left behind deep within him, and how music and writing helped him to cope. Anger would suddenly flare up as he fought to bury the hurt. Heartbreakingly, he recounts the first time he began to tell someone about the abuse, and his college roommate reacted with disgust.
As is so often the case for victims of this type of abuse, the effects of the abuse on Williams’ life have been pervasive and enduring. He admits he still doesn’t look forward to bedtime because of the nightly abusive visits from his dad. He shares how hard it is to trust others and function in relationships. When he looks at himself in the mirror, the reflection he sees “totally disgusts me.”
A particularly moving part of the narrative was when the author’s father was close to death and on a ventilator. After spelling out all that he’d experienced at the hands of his father, he concluded by telling him that he forgave him.
The book concludes with an assurance to the reader who’s been through abuse that they are not alone, and they can find healing. Williams writes that “there is always access to light inside of each and every one of us, no matter how black the darkness becomes.” The book was written with the hope that it would help other victims feel able to talk about their own pain.
As gut-wrenching as the book is, there’s a clear message of hope. This book is profoundly human, and there’s a simpleness to the style of writing that clearly reflects the underlying courage to tell a horrible story the way it was – nothing less, nothing more. This is a subject that absolutely needs to be brought out of the shame-filled corners and into the open. Williams makes an excellent contribution to that.
I received a reviewer copy of this book from www.netgalley.com.
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