Lehman, Carolyn. Strong at the Heart: How It Feels to Heal from Sexual Abuse. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005. ISBN 978-0374372828 176 pp. $
If every parent, teacher librarian and child in America read this book, perhaps we could put a stop to the largely silent epidemic of sexual abuse of our children. Even if you are not a survivor of sexual abuse, someone that you know is: one in three women and one in six men are abused sexually by the time they turn eighteen.
Strong at the Heart profiles nine courageous teens and adults who have traveled the road to recovery and found ways to speak up, speak out and begin healing from molestation, rape and abuse. Never gratuitous and shying away from sordid details, these stories will disturb some readers. An author’s note at the beginning suggests finding someone to talk with about the issues raised.
The survivors share what happened to them and the guilt, shame, fear, horror and finally healthy anger that ensued. All of them were fortunate to find an adult who believed in and supported them, even when allegations were made against their own family members. Some delved into unhealthy coping mechanisms before working through their trauma, others turned to creative outlets such as film and music and public speaking. A final chapter tells how three empowered students created a student organization on the campus of Smith College for Survivors and Allies For Education on Childhood Sexual Abuse and Incest (SAFE).
The cover shows half of the face of a woman of color, but every portrait within the pages is whole, a testimony to the healing process. Other photos of survivors with their families and loved ones, enjoying various activities, paint a clear picture of complete beings.
Twenty pages of resources include 24-hour hotlines, organizations and websites for more help. An annotation fiction list offers bibliotherapy resources, while non-fiction bibliography is split into such categories as for men, date rape, sexuality, resiliency and activism.