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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Boxes of Secrets: An Interview with Veronica Wright

According to statistics found on the National Domestic Violence Hotline web site, 1 out of 3 women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. That’s something author and speaker Veronica Wright personally knows about. Her debut novel, Boxes of Secrets: A gripping true account of overcoming sexual abuse in a 'perfect' Christian home, is a fearlessly raw and authentic account of the abuse she suffered as a child.

Today Veronica is a survivor, advocate and spokesperson for rape victims worldwide. She also works with and is the spokesperson for International Crisis Aid (ICA), which is based in Saint Louis, MO. ICA rescues girls ages 4-14 who are victims of sex trafficking, forced prostitution, rape or other sex crimes. Through this partnership, Veronica speaks at government agencies, conferences, universities and churches promoting the rescuing and safe havens for children – not only in this country but in many others as well.

I recently had a chance to talk to Veronica about this important issue and about her thoughts on how we can eradicate sexual abuse and sexual slavery from the planet for good.

Shelly Rachanow: Tell us more about Boxes of Secrets.

Veronica Wright: Boxes of Secrets: A gripping true account of overcoming sexual abuse in a “perfect” Christian home is a book written from my own personal experience. The book starts out with my husband and I in a complete financial crisis, which ultimately led to a marital crisis. After 23 years of marriage, we were on the verge of divorce. In a last ditch effort to save our marriage we decided to give marriage counseling a chance and found ourselves in a therapist’s office. In one of our first sessions together, our counselor had us describe each other’s childhood experiences. To my surprise, my husband was unable to disclose many details concerning my childhood. I discovered that after 23 years of marriage, I was a complete stranger to my husband. I hadn’t intentionally been silent concerning my abusive childhood, I was my family’s secret keeper and I took that belief into my adult life.

The book then chronicles my walking the reader through my forbidden and nightmarish history. With the guidance of a trusted therapist, I backtracked through the decades where I had methodically packed away my memories in carefully wrapped boxes in a special storage closet in my mind. I escort the reader into my therapist’s office where one by one, I open the boxes of memories whose contents are shocking even to the seasoned counselor. In the end, readers are on the edge of their seats as I dare to confront my abusive family members in an explosive confrontation that takes place in my therapist’s office. Ultimately, I show that it is possible to walk away from your abusive past and its harmful effects and into a life of freedom.

Shelly Rachanow: What gave you the courage to share your story?

Veronica Wright: I guess I found the courage from recognizing that I was not alone in my experience. I wanted to help other victims know that there is hope if you reach out for help. I also became very passionate about dispelling the belief system in the Christian community that you are to remain silent about your abuse and trust God with the outcome. What is so puzzling about that belief is, it’s not how God demonstrates handling family secrets. Soap operas have nothing on the Bible. The scriptures don’t have any objection with telling us what brother raped his sister, what father slept with his daughter-in-law and so on. It is all about exposing evil and dealing with it. I have come to believe that “silence is permission”. If victims don’t speak out about what happened to them and who the person responsible for it was, it empowers the perpetrator to hurt more victims. I call it the “Religious Code of Silence.” My editor was appalled while researching for my book to find that it is the first “tell all” in the Christian market.

Shelly Rachanow: On your website, you say that it is your “heartfelt belief that not only can a victim survive, but they can thrive beyond the pain of an abusive past.” What have you learned that can help other people who have also been abused?

Veronica Wright: Many outspoken well-known people are open about surviving a past of sexual abuse. In my observation, survivors tend to fall into two categories. One category is those who repeat the pattern of victimization into their adulthood, like marrying abusers or self-destructive behaviors like substance abuse. I think in those cases, subconsciously victims feel they don’t deserve better. Of course many feel the need to self medicate as a way of escaping the pain. However, there seems to be another group of survivors who go the exact opposite direction. They are the overachievers, the ones who thrive.

I have witnessed countless women who tell stories of unimaginable childhood horrors, but in their adult life, they have not let it stop them from doing what they were created to do. A notorious example of this is Oprah Winfrey. She is very public about having been molested by three different perpetrators in her childhood. Oprah has achieved more in her five decades on this planet than most could achieve in three lifetimes. But, she is not alone in this multiplication factor. Many former victims rise up from the ashes of abuse and use the tenacity that it took to survive such traumas into achieving great things. In other words, they refuse to let the perpetrator win. Although many victims seem to thrive instinctively, it is my heartfelt belief that this thriving quality is available through faith, education and counseling.

Shelly Rachanow: What are some things we can do to help eradicate sexual abuse and sexual slavery from the world?

Veronica Wright: Awareness!! The issue of sexual slavery and sex trafficking has been in the dark far too long. The FBI recently reported that 300,000 American girls are at risk of being trafficked every year in the US. That 300,000 number only represents the American girls who are at risk. It does not reflect girls who have been smuggled into our country for the expressed purpose of sexual exploitation and slavery. The number one demographic group that is trafficked is 11-14 year old girls.

We have eradicated slavery once in the history of this country; I truly believe we can do it again. History shows us that freedom was accomplished through the strong convictions of certain individuals who wouldn’t back down for human rights. We need tougher laws on the books for persons found guilty of selling other human beings. Sexual slavery is a multi-billion dollar industry. The laws have to ensure that it isn’t worth the time in prison if the pimp gets caught. Right now, a pimp can make thousands of dollars selling his sex slaves, many of whom are only 11-14 years old, and if caught and convicted, it is only a matter of time for him to be released to go back to his fortune. Why a person who sells a human being for the expressed purpose of sex ever sees the light of day again, is beyond me!

Shelly Rachanow: If there’s one thing you could say to someone who is currently experiencing abuse, what would it be?

Veronica Wright: Get help! Regrettably, this is easier said than done. When abuse is all you have ever known, it becomes a normal part of your life experience. Lines between love and hate quickly become blurred. I encourage anyone who is in some kind of abusive relationship to tell another trusted individual. More importantly, if you know of someone who is in an abusive relationship, reach out and offer them support. Often the abused feel as though they have nowhere to go so they remain in an unsafe relationship. They have usually been shamed into thinking that they are not of any value. You can make the difference in the life of another simply by offering them help and support in their time of need.

Shelly Rachanow: And last, the 'If Women Ran the World Blog' question for everyone - What would you do if you ran the world?

Veronica Wright: Hmm, that’s a great question and not an easy one for me to answer. I feel incredibly torn between something terribly profound and something completely ludicrous. I’m gonna have to go with my gut on this one, believe it or not, I would eliminate homework and “at home” school projects. I have four children who spend close to six hours a day, nine months of the year, in school. I would love them to be able to come home and just be kids for the rest of the day. I think there is as much to learn while playing with friends in the neighborhood and in various sports activities as there is in the classroom. I would insist on children being able to live much more balanced lives than what we are giving them. They will have plenty of time to stress when they are adults. I say let them remain children while they can.

Boxes of Secrets is available at Amazon.com and Kindle download, and at http://www.veronicakwright.com/.

Look for Veronica Wright on Facebook.

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