The little girl on the cover of Without Consent could be any little girl of any age, race, religion, or language. This particular child’s name is Carol Ann, and she is three-and-a-half-years-old, the age when her childhood sexual abuse began. Her’s lasted into young adulthood. She passed away November 20th, 2013 at the age of seventy-six.
Carol and I wrote Without Consent at a time in life when we were in good health, had a successful counseling business, and worked together with a remarkable harmony and passion to change the world . . . a mission, if you will. We took risks like we were bullet-proof. We felt we could overcome any obstacle.
We wrote steadily for two years in the early 80’s. Then our daughter was in a car accident. We nursed her back to health most of the following year, a process complicated by emerging issues of her own childhood sexual abuse. We went back and finished our manuscript five years after we had begun.
When we started writing this book there were few resources available to understand and treat the damage inflicted by childhood sexual abuse. It was a subject that people rarely talked about in public, especially among men. In the fall of 1989, Without Consent found an enthusiastic audience.
Through the efforts of our publisher, Swan Press, our book was an immediate critical success in a wide variety of communities. . . academic, feminist, religious, scientific, legal, medical, and counseling. Libraries across the country picked it up. Copies went to a village in northern Canada, others to New Zealand. The International Journal of Child Abuse and Neglect reviewed it favorably in the U.S. and Belgium. Readers’ letters of gratitude began to come in.
Then the publishing company went out of business, the book went out of print, and Carol’s health took a torturous turn for the worse, predominantly due to the damage done to her body early in life.
Some things in the field of child abuse have not changed. The cruelty of childhood sexual abuse continues. Denial continues. Are we at a significantly better place as a society? Of course we are, but the advances have not been as far-reaching as we would hope to see. So we persist.
Today the mainstream media covers child abuse cases in prime time, often with keen insights by knowledgeable people in the field. First-person life-stories seem to be everywhere. Girls, boys, spouses, family, and friends can now globally access life-saving information from countless resources through their local library, home computer, or e-reader.
This access is a monumental step forward. Carol and I enthusiastically supported persons seeking out information and opinions from varied resources. There is a wealth of insight available, for readers all over the world to network with and ask questions of.
Not every strategy works for every person. Life circumstances vary and each culture presents its own unique adaptations. Be a skeptical reader. Check things out. Make informed decisions about how to spend your time and energy. You are in control of your choices. You have the power to learn and grow in your own way, your individual path, your “road much less traveled.”
We believe that Without Consent has stood the test of time. The principles of change, health, and growth we put forth in our writing are as relevant today as they were two decades ago. Carol and I practiced these principles in our marriage, our family, our friendships and business.
This brings us to the most important criticism we have confronted since writing the original manuscript. It is the book’s subtitle How to Overcome Childhood Sexual Abuse. The key concern is in the use of the word “overcome.”
In retrospect, we should have made the subtitle – How to Overcome Childhood Sexual Abuse One-Day-At-A-Time.
That is the way healing and health seem to happen. Every day we do something to confront our fear, joy, gratitude, anger, and shame. When we look back and years have gone by, we realize we are stronger and more free than we were when we started.
As we change, the world around us changes. When we see ourselves in the mirror, we see more self-respect. We find ourselves having more good days than bad. The plan, strategy, therapy program, and/or spiritual path has been working. We know what we are guilty of and what we are not, and the shame has less power. We have mutually respectful and nourishing relationships that keep us going in a healthy direction. We continue to learn how to love and be loved.
Childhood sexual abuse brings suffering different than most tragedies. There is no hurricane or tsunami, plane crash or car wreck, no disease for which there is a cure. What happened was the result of someone’s perversions, insanity, destructiveness, or cruelty, you choose the words. From a moral perspective this specific group of children, regardless of race, religion, or language, suffer for the sins of others.
A couple decades ago, after a speech I gave, a man asked me a question. “With all due respect to the work you are doing Jeff . . Is the truth that when someone goes through severe sexual abuse, they never really get over it? They are never the same, and some things cannot be fixed?”
I stopped in my tracks and looked at the man to read his motive. He seemed sincere and was waiting to hear my answer. It occurred to me that my word choice would be important. I replied, “If you are asking if some things cannot be undone, that the past cannot be changed, then the answer is yes, life in never the same. But it has been my experience that the most courageous and accomplished people I have ever met are people who have survived horrendous life experiences and went on to do good things with their lives.”
The man looked at me curiously, waiting for me to say more. I paused and added, “In fact, I am married to one of those people. She is the most amazing person I have ever met, and I intend to spend the rest of my life with her.”
As Carol and I celebrated our marriage of twenty-six years, we offered Without Consent to the e-readership of the world. We were joyful and awed by re-entering the communities of dedicated people banding together to make a difference in the world. We were uplifted and humbled that you dear reader were taking the time to examine our work with a critical eye.
Our deepest gratitude went out to those who supported this e-edition of Without Consent. Henry Anthony Ebarb, J.D., Ph.D., a man whose exceptional intellect may be only exceeded by his extraordinary integrity and passion for seeing people triumph over adversity. Jack and Rocky, spiritual brothers, guardian angels, and ordinary beautiful human beings. Jack’s daughter and son, whose computer knowledge and generosity of efforts translated paper and print into words that can travel the world.
Our son Wolf, whose sober strength of body, mind, and spirit carried us through great challenges one-day-at-a-time. My Yaqui brother Forrest, whose earthly sensibilities and front porch conversations helped me keep my feet on the ground and my eyes on my path. To Roy and Deborah for introducing our work to the world. L.C., who has believed in our writing from the beginning, and who gave us a home when we had no place to go. And my parents, who started me on This Good Journey.
Finally, Teri Kojetin at The E-Book Editor for her patience, encouragement, and hard work walking a 20th Century writer into the 21st Century world of publishing in the clouds.
I will conclude by sharing with you that the little girl on the cover of this book lived long enough to become a great-grandmother, and she is still the most amazing woman I have ever met. Knowing Carol, sharing our life, nurturing our sexually abused daughter, made me a far better man than I would have been had we missed each other. In her physical absence on earth, it continues to be a fantastic journey.
Many blessings from our family to yours.
May we all live long and loving lives
with a courage
we are not always sure we have.