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Adoptive Parenting Columnist Heidi Hess Saxton
Painful Truth: A Review of Silent Prisoner by Amanda Young (BookSurge Publishing)
From the angry, drunken brawling of her parents’ house to the soul-chilling austerity of a children’s home, eight-year-old April learned early in life that her best chance of survival involved keeping quiet and making herself useful. And so she cultivated a habit of silence.
She was silent as she stood in the yard of the orphanage, exposed to the elements, nearly dying of pneumonia. Silent as she endured unspeakable verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. Silent as the only family who had ever shown her kindness died untimely deaths. Silent as she married hastily to escape her childhood horrors, only to find the nightmares multiplied. And now the eloquent silence served her again as she faced a phantom of childhood.
Silent Prisoner is not easy reading. Yet woven throughout are silvery threads of hope: distant relations and other strangers who showed momentary kindnesses. A little boy, the product of a loveless marriage that became for her a promise of a better future. Above all, the comfort of angels and glimpses of God … not overt and overwhelming, but beacons of something better, urging her on. It is the portrait of someone truly powerless, yet ultimately unbeaten.
Foster parents and those hoping to adopt older or difficult-to-place children will particularly benefit from this unforgettable story. Even the grim details of this young woman’s life offer a glimpse into the secret burdens that are common to many of the children in the system. Some details particularly struck home:
Like many victims of domestic abuse, “April” becomes disenchanted with organized religion. And, like many victims of domestic violence, she has reason to be. Instead of defending her against her abusive husband, religious figures in her story – particularly one priest, “Bill” – side with the perpetrator, urging her to be a better wife and even testifying on her abusive husband’s behalf.
While the Church has made some significant inroads into understanding the dynamics of domestic violence, such as their pastoral letter released in 1995 entitled “When I Call For Help” (http://www.usccb.org/laity/help.shtml), stories like April’s are grim reminders that there is still much work to be done. Catholics of all stripes – laity as well as clergy – need to be aware of the realities of this particular offense against the dignity of women and the sacrament of matrimony, so that they might be able to assist these prisoners from their dungeons of silence.
This book is an excellent resource for those who want to better understand the poor and powerless, and the circumstances that led to their plight. Outstanding Lenten reading.
Copyright 2008 Heidi Hess Saxton
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