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What Writing Means to Me and Has Done for Me … By: Maribeth Shanley

MB CITW5My first attempt at conveying the effects of child molestation was written as a memoir. It took me at least ten years to put something more than a few paragraphs on a page. It was a struggle writing anything, especially anything that made any sense or was even written well.

I’ve done a lot over the years trying to undo what was done to me. Eventually that led me to writing down my feelings. I have a huge file full of things I’ve written; and, prior to discovering I could actually write a memoir I would pull out the file and cull through my writings. They must have encouraged me because some of the notes were pretty profound. What mostly helped me break through the stuff that was blocking me was the meditation I began doing. I used and still do use an audio program called Holosync which allows a person to meditate at the level of a Buddhist monk.

I began meditating about five years ago and, after using the audio program for about six months my self-confidence grew by leaps and bounds because, all of a sudden, I began writing the memoir. I finished it in about six months and had a few people read it. One of those persons was my best girlfriend.

Soon, however, I decided not to look for a publisher. There was something about the memoir that felt undone and flat. It felt incomplete and left me feeling less than satisfied. I conveyed this to my girlfriend and she finally agreed.

“But,” she said, “Maribeth, you’re an excellent writer. As I was reading your manuscript, especially the passage where you described your first intimate encounter with Bob (my husband of 44 years), there was something steamy about it. I think you ought to consider writing a novel, maybe something with romance in it.” That’s all I needed. The very next day I began writing CRACK IN THE WORLD.

The first draft was finished in less than two months. My same girlfriend read it and told me, “Maribeth, I read a lot of books. I think you could have a best seller here.” That was all I needed to begin looking for a publisher.

After sending out my manuscript to nearly 100 publishers I got an email back from Mike Simpson telling me he felt I had a story to tell and it was one that should be told. He gave me several critical suggestions regarding how to structure it as a novel, then suggested I resubmit when it was finished.

When I contacted Mike again, he asked me to send him the manuscript. I was in the middle of editing it for probably the sixth time.  At the time the ending was very different from the published one. Where Emily’s father died before her mother, it was my mother who died first. Her death left my father in charge of everything, including how my siblings interpreted the healing process I embarked upon. My mother’s death was the catalyst for beginning my healing.

My father has since died. In fact he died about ten years ago. Yet, he had already done the damage.  He poisoned the well, leaving three of my five siblings full of hatred for me.  I was labeled  the culprit who broke up the family.

My first ending was a bleak attempt at hoping these three individuals would not only read the book, but would have a change of heart toward me. One of these siblings read the manuscript with the first ending and actually liked it.  However, when it came time to have a change of heart or even begin to show compassion toward me, she blew up and all hope was abandoned.

As I thought about sending Mike the manuscript with the original ending I just couldn’t do it. I had to do a lot of soul searching and realized why I wrote the ending the way I did. I knew the ending was all wrong. So I changed it.

Writing the novel with its cast of characters allowed me to write about what happened to me through the eyes, and pain of another person. I was able to give Emily (my main character) a wonderful support group of three people.

As I was, Emily was a member of a large family, yet, because she was the only child who suffered gross abuse by her father, she felt alone and isolated. Giving her a support group at such an early age, gave her a  sense of being part of another family. She felt love and kindness outside her biological family and that love and kindness resulted in her becoming so strong emotionally that she was able to defy her father thus turning her world upside down.

It took me 22 years to find my support group of one.  I met my husband, the very night I moved away from my parents’ house. He was the first human being I felt completely safe with.  I didn’t want Emily to suffer as long as I had suffered. The novel format allowed me to change that for her.

Sexual abuse has the ability of destroying so much in a human being. It takes away confidence, and, for many child victims, that confidence is never restored.

Any type of child abuse creeps into every nook and cranny of a human being’s psyche. It destroys so much that it takes a strong person most of his/her life reclaiming everything. Sexual abuse has one more consequence. It destroys a person’s sexual identity.

For a child, it destroys any hope of ever establishing a sexual identity. The act of sex remains a perpetual dirty act. That was something else I was able to change for Emily.

One of her support group members was a boy her own age named Sean, who she grew to love as she matured. Sean loved Emily’s guts and resilience. In the end, he fell in love with her as well. Once they graduated from high school they realized they were going to be separated for a number of years. They wanted to find out if there love was real. So I was able to create a tender, loving moment for them allowing Emily to learn that sex was anything but dirty. It was a beautiful act between two individuals who felt nothing but tenderness for each other.

I love writing stories with wonderful sex. However, when I incorporate sex it isn’t just to throw it in. Instead, it’s meaningful, tender and loving. It took me 22 years to find out that there were males in this world who didn’t want to exploit me or use me. I fashioned Sean’s beautiful personality after my husband’s beautiful personality.

Yet, because I lived for so long under the shadow of my father, It took me 65 years and meditation to finally undo all the subconscious damage done to me when I was just a sweet, innocent child. At 65, and after completing CRACK IN THE WORLD,  I was finally able to kick my father out of my head and out of my bed. Now, I can freely write about sex for what it is, a celebration of that special connection between two individuals.

Writing gave me the ability to not only change the future for another individual, but it gave me the ability to watch Emily grow which gave me an outsider’s view of how damaging child molestation is for a child. I now understand so much more about what happened to me.


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