Finding Joy
by Ellen Payne
BookVenture Publishing LLC

"Suffering abuse always robs the victim, taking from them such things as innocence, trust, security, virginity, control of their lives."

A woman named Joy, whose autobiography is being offered here in anonymity, is well aware of the truth of the foregoing statement. From her earliest childhood, she suffered various forms of abuse imposed on her by both parents. It took a journey of many years to regain a sense of her own worth. She recalled without too much effort that her parents had punished her physically with beatings that included insults, hitting, caning, and isolation in a stench-filled chicken coop. Later, with the help of counseling and her own professional work as an occupational therapist and a religious leader, Joy’s other memories began to seep in. She recognized her mother’s pattern of verbal denigration when she saw it repeated in incidents with her own children. Her father was a cold man, and as time passed, and Joy had more flashbacks, she realized that, along with the frequent beatings and harsh words, he had sexually abused her.

Joy also experienced abusive treatment in her early marriage to a husband who refused to call her by name (She was just “wife”) or to recognize her abilities and talents. When both she and her husband became attracted to religious study, their relationship improved. Still, Joy had a high IQ and could have pursued a career in medicine but was swamped with household and farming chores for most of her married life.

The story of Joy offers both professional wisdom and acute, often painful, memories. The first phase of her life, and of the book itself, demonstrates the patterns of abuse that she endured; the second segment reflects her progress toward wholeness. First as a therapist and then as a minister, she worked with others who had experienced abuse. Insights about her traumatic childhood served to inform her in helping others, reflecting the considerable inner growth she was experiencing as time passed. One fascinating aspect of her book’s construction is that it allows the reader to see the many different ways that abuse in childhood affects people as they mature. It isn’t just a matter of accepting and dealing with memories but involves an almost constant stream of small incidents with footprints back to the patterns of hateful treatment. A chance remark about something minor such as clothing or appearance could evoke, for Joy, a sudden flood of self-blaming and shaming thoughts. Now she knows that the blame, clearly and properly, should have been with those who caused her to feel that way.

The author has provided a series of practical exercises at the end of the book, with section headings such as “Reflections on Emotions,” “Fight, Flight, or Face and Fix,” and “Questions for Survivors.” In these portions, there are useful and therapeutic suggestions for abuse victims, such as listing the personal losses that have been caused by abuse or creating a mosaic out of broken bits of glass and pottery to see the way that shattered materials can create a healing picture. Written for the guidance and benefit of others in similar circumstances, this chronicle can serve as a frank but sensitive manual for abuse survivors at any stage of recovery.

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