That was the question asked in the chat room during my recent radio show with Kelly Flook, author of ‘Shhhh!  Sad, Shocking and Sexy‘.

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Kelly had experienced emotional, physical and sexual abuse as a child and took the courageous step to document and present to the world the journey her life took as a result. I can understand the listener’s question. Why make a connection between child abuse and ‘sexy’?  Kelly indicated that she was asked that question often, and she too understands the concern.  However, in her book she includes situations and experiences of romance and love.  It’s not strictly about the abuse. The listener was not convinced that Kelly’s answer alleviated her concern, but acknowledged it was Kelly’s book and it was her right to title it as she saw fit.

This isn’t the first time I had an individual on my show to discuss their memoir of surviving and working through an abusive childhood. On June 15th I had a gentleman from the UK, James Williamson, as guest on my show.  He wrote the book ‘They Can’t Touch Him Now‘.

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James waited until all those who would be affected by his revelations had passed on. During my discussion with James he told me that he struggled with the writing of this book when it came to describing the details of his abuse.  He wanted to be as specific and informative as possible without exciting those abusers and giving them some freak thrill. James indicated it was a delicate balance that he gave much attention.

According to The National Center for Victims of Crime (www.victimsofcrime.org) and studies by David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center:

  • 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;
  • Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;
  • During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13.

These numbers are stunning.  Each child will grow up with the abuse as a background for their adult behaviors.  Often childhood abuse works its way into becoming adult self-abuse.  Some, like James Williamson, will wait until the abusers and those involved die off before revealing their circumstances.  Some, like Kelly Flook, won’t wait – with the hope that their story can help victims of abuse now.  They will tell their story even if it means alienating themselves from people close to them.

Back to the original question of this post. Is is appropriate to use the word ‘sexy’ in a memoir about child abuse? Recognizing that Kelly was able to overcome the guilt, shame and blame that often accompanies childhood abuse – and have  romantic, loving – and yes – sexy relationships, should be a beacon to those whose who have abusive pasts.  You are not condemned to a life of disappointing relationships – you can – and deserve to live a life filled with Love.

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