Fans of Erin Merryn's heart-wrenching debut memoir Stolen Innocence were left wondering at the end what would become of an emotionally fragile Erin after her confrontation with the reality of being a child of incest and molestation. In Living for Today, readers find that Erin cultivated the strength to face her abuser and eventually facilitated and experienced relief from years of emotional restlessness, while also igniting the beginnings of a new fearless journey. Living for Today chronicles that journey, which began with the unearthing of private shame and releasing of ugly memories and letting go of guilt and becoming the mouthpiece of millions of her generation.
Through her compelling narrative, readers will learn how they, too, can:
- Learn to look forward, in spite of an abusive past
- Block off any impending guilt from outing an abuser
- Deal with interfamily strife as a result of incest and molestation
- Shake off the "victim" tag and replace it with one that reads "survivor"
Living for Today is Merryn's contribution to an audience that has felt victimized, ashamed, isolated, and silenced by its abusers and offers a roadmap for self-discovery, forgiveness, and empowerment to help readers rid the stigma they have attached to their trauma and live fully and fearlessly for today.
|Publisher:||Health Communications, Incorporated|
|Sold by:||SIMON & SCHUSTER|
|File size:||2 MB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Don't take this as being friendly. Personally, and this is my opinion only, not anyone else's, you should have stayed in Colorado. The crap you pulled with Mary and Scott stinks and considering that your daughter said something was supposed to have happened here at my home has me very upset. You know damn well, or you would have bothered to check your story first, that your kids were never alone in my home. Someone over the age of sixteen was with them at all times. The fact that you called the police and then left town stinks. The call to DCFS was totally unnecessary. If something had happened anywhere, you should have talked to the parents first. The extremely ill feelings that you have caused a lot of us, feelings toward you and Dan and your kids, is your fault and no one else's. Maybe you could explain to all of us why you refused to see the counselor with Mary and Scott? You brought this all on yourself. For the record . . . you and the kids are not welcome in my home. If you were invited here it would not be at my wish, but others in the family whom I respect.
Reading this letter again more than ten years after he wrote and sent it, I still want to scream at Mike and tell him what a jerk he is. His comment about my sister and me always being around someone sixteen or older had nothing to do with my cousin sexually abusing us. We were around twenty other relatives, well over the age of sixteen, who were in the next room or down the hall the many times Brian abused us.
Then to accuse my mom of being at fault? He had his facts backward. It was Mary and Scott who refused to get their son help, which was the reason my parents went to the police in the first place. The only person at fault for this whole mess was Brian.
Mike's comment about my mother bringing this all on herself was completely untrue. Brian's decision to sexually abuse his cousins is what got our family in this disaster.
Mike's final comment about us not being welcome in his home was so twisted. We were the children abused by our cousin, yet he said we were liars.
It was my mother's letter back that makes me proud she stood up for her girls.
I wasn't going to respond to your last e-mail because anyone who would write anything so mean and twisted . . . well, just being you has to be miserable enough! I don't think you realize how transparent your e-mail was on your own issues . . . to have taken it so personally . . . makes me wonder if you must have a few skeletons rattling in your closet! I hope you deal with them. . . I'll keep you in my prayers.
As far as the facts in your e-mail go . . . well, if you choose to be ignorant that is your choice. . . . I feel really bad for Mary and Scott, too, but you have your victims mixed up. Brian is the one who hurt my girls, us, Mary, and Scott. Mary is in so much pain she needs to vent her anger at someone and it is hard to do it when it is your own son. Mike, if you want to be fair you would have asked our side, not assumed and spewed! Mary did not want to work with us. She would not return our phone calls and believed her son was innocent. (And I don't blame her, that would be hard.) Dan and I sought the advice of not one, but ten counselors, including children advocacy, social workers, and a detective, on how we could handle this without reporting it. We did everything in our power and the end result being he [Brian] denied it and Mary and Scott were going to let it be. They were advised to have a family meeting with the girls present, and Dan and I felt that was secondary abuse to our girls and unheard of (if you even care to know). So Dan and I took action to get Brian the help he needed through professionals. The detective told me Mary and Scott felt Brian was innocent and obviously they didn't tell you, Mike, that Brian confessed to the abuse while being interviewed by a detective, including that incident in your house. The sixteen-year-olds must have turned their heads!
Mike, there are over thirteen different accounts of abuse to Allie and Erin that we know of. They are in counseling with Dan and me. It pisses me off and makes me wonder about you and your opinion when little girls get sexually abused and you call them liars and me a jerk for protecting them, and giving them the message that they don't matter. If Brian had stolen a radio from Kmart it would have been a police matter. You obviously think my girls' innocence, bodies, and minds are worth less than that. I feel sorry for you. If an adult woman is sexually assaulted it is a police matter.
Who the hell do you think is supposed to take care of young girls? Yes, their parents. Brian confessed, he will now get help and then he can be restored. Now isn't that better than denying it and holding it in his whole life?
For the record, no one else in the family who Dan and I care about are blaming us. So your little threat has no bearing! As far as me getting help, I did, Mike, and that is why my girls were taken care of when someone hurt them! Statistic shows most child abuse happens within family and that is why it continues. I hope you were just confused, Mike, because if you weren't I'll be praying for you.
By September, fifteen-year-old Brian was given six months probation, no unsupervised contact with Allie and me, and mandated counseling at a center for juveniles who have had trouble with the law.
Though no longer living in silence, I continued to carry pain and memories. While my cousin got a very light punishment for the pain he caused Allie and me, I was grateful for the work Detective Deguilio did for our family. He did not give up until he got a confession from my cousin. His fighting for what our cousin stole from us gave my sister and me a sense of justice. He pulled the truth out of Brian.
As in so many cases of sexual abuse within the family, it is much more complicated than had it been done by a stranger. Nothing could have prepared me for my extended family's reaction. Brian's mother did not want him having a record that could affect his future, including college and a career. She pleaded with the Illinois state's attorney to clear his record. When the state's attorney looked into the matter, she saw the three counts of sexual abuse on his record and no prior trouble with the law. She signed off and agreed to my cousin's getting counseling, and it would not show on his record. Until my mother told her, the state's attorney had no idea how many times our cousin abused us over the course of nearly two years. All she had to go on was the paperwork in front of her, and it showed three counts of sexual abuse. My cousin may have been a juvenile, but he committed the same crime over and over again and should have been held responsible for his actions by receiving more than just a few sessions of counseling and six months of probation. He should have undergone an intense treatment program for sex offenders and six years of probationâuntil he reached the age of twenty-one.
Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world, and I had to realize at thirteen that Brian was going to slip through the cracks of the justice system. Imagine the message that sent to my sister and me. A cousin violates us, confesses, and walks away with barely a slap on the wrist. I learned at a young age that if I was ever going to see justice for the wrongs done to me, I had to find it myself.
For a year my parents, sisters, and I stopped attending holidays and began the healing process. The pain of learning what happened to Allie and me took a toll on my parents, and we often heard our mother crying to our dad about it. I will never forget the time Allie and I heard our mother downstairs crying in our dad's arms. She was blaming herself for not seeing the signs that her children were being abused. She reminded our father that his family was treating us like we were the perpetrator rather than the victims. My father struggled with what happened to his daughters and how his parents and most of his siblings were not showing us any kind of support. None of my dad's brothers, sisters, or our grandparents once called to see how Allie and I were.
Allie and I sat crying at the top of the stairs. We realized how damaging this was to our once happy, close-knit family. Our sister Caitlin comforted Allie and me, telling us over and over that none of this was our fault, reminding us that Brian had caused this pain, not us. Allie and I were at the vulnerable ages of eleven and thirteen, respectively, and we just wanted to move on with our lives. We did not want to see anyone hurting.
In a sense, neither of us wanted to deal with the uncomfortable topic and wished it would just go away. Some days it seemed easier carrying it alone before we broke our silence. I could handle carrying my own pain, but seeing my parents in pain was ripping me apart inside. While my sister and I were reminded we did not cause this pain, it was knowing that because we broke our silence about what had been done to us, our parents were hurting. That knowledge was hard on us.
©2009. Erin Merryn. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Living for Today. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442
Table of Contents
Prologue: My Sister's Voice xi
Chapter 1 Innocence Lost 5
Chapter 2 Finding My Voice 29
Chapter 3 November 22, 2003 53
Chapter 4 Pinky Promise 57
Chapter 5 Shattering Silence 88
Chapter 6 Putting the Pieces Together 116
Chapter 7 The Accident 138
Chapter 8 Justice Through My Voice 161
Chapter 9 The Final Stage in Healing 177
Chapter 10 Reflection 198
Chapter 11 A New Promise 219
What People are Saying About This
'Erin's courageous account of her own journey dealing with the aftermath of sexual abuse is powerful and emotionally honest. It provides hope to other victims of abuse that they, too, can not only survive these terrible events but also heal and thrive.'
Executive Director, National Children's Alliance
'This book is a study in courage, honesty, and the pursuit of truth, even at the risk of alienating the ones you love. Erin's story will stay with you long after you have finished it.'
Author of Perfectly Imperfect and In an Instant
'Living for Today is a must-read for the countless people who have been affected by sexual abusenot just for the survivors but also for their loved ones. Merryn's personal evolution coupled with her candor and fearless nature should be celebrated. Her inner strength is an inspiration, and this book will help pave the way for myriads of people to shatter the silence of sexual violence.'
Founder and Executive Director, PAVE: Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment