"The Game" is over Five Stars

Craig Chalquist, M.S.
Top 500 Reviewer

Very often, when sexual abuse survivors tell their tale, they have been made to feel so much like objects that even as adults their earlier thoughts and feelings remain hidden. In this case, however, the author has given us glimpses of the inner life of a child terrorized by a man given permission by a patriarchal religious background to be “head of the household”: that is, a darth vader, the head domestic terrorist.

As the tale unfolds you can see how the perpetrator isolates, then brainwashes his victims while increasing their physical and psychological dependency on him. And how black-white, this-that, right-wrong beliefs merely reinforce his own absolutist opinions and literalistic excuses for seduction and violence. The self-justifications, the lies, the false faces and twisted thinking were familiar to me through my counseling work with perpetrators, whose primary agenda is the complete control of family members.

What the author also details for us is the adulthood fallout of abuse, and the lifelong struggle for clarity. Sticking closely to his experiences, he shows us what it is to try assembling a self without having had a sense of self--and burdened at the same time with the hyper-rigid shoulds, oughts, and other forms of shame and self-hatred deposited into his psyche by the abuser. (I believe it was Elie Wiesel who said that it’s always the victims who feel shame, not the executioners.)

A particularly sad moment: sitting in the courtroom hearing attorneys warp a sexual abuse case into a religious battle, the author thinks: why did I put myself through this ordeal? Such legalistic wranglings only serve the perpetrator, of course, mirroring as they do his own attempts to control other people through misrepresentation, procedural weaknesses, and word games.

In spite of this, the author moves ahead with his own healing, demonstrating that the benefits of asserting oneself don’t necessarily depend on happy outcomes, legal or otherwise. To find that the world isn’t so bad a place to inhabit in spite of all the suffering, and to become comfortable with one’s differentness, are only two of the treasures he uncovers on his pilgrimage. A third is learning to get more comfortable--despite abuse, rejection by “Christian” elders, and a homophobic society--with being gay, a thing hard to come by even without having been incested or raised in a fragmented family. (Remarkably, the abuser has written about the sinfulness of his son’s homosexuality. Apparently it’s OK to terrorize an entire family, use spirituality for subjugation, and even rape one’s children--but not OK for a man to show love to another man. The family values of perpetrators and those who support them are truly unique.)

Finally, the book is also a topical reminder that sexual abuse is not confined to (or mismanaged by) the Catholic Church, and that many “Christian” organizations are more interested in protecting their clergy than its victims. In this they resemble the gentlemen whom Jesus criticized for shutting the door on those who follow. Not every church, temple, or parish provides a safe haven for perpetrators, of course--but an emphasis on politics, male control of women, missionary persuasion, ideological domination, and uncritical obedience make large religious organizations attractive to victimizers looking for protection and self-authorization. The more political an organization, the greater its usefulness to predators adept at making rigid rules work in their favor.

I recommend this book to abuse survivors actively engaged in the struggle for selfhood.

Craig Chalquist, M.S.
Psychology Steps Outside:

Visit The Tears of Llorona

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