- Comfort victims by sharing
- Confront violence by breaking the silence
- Change society via information & action
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Tolson 4 TEARS Print Interview on Midwest Book Review
E. Dian Moore, reviewer for Midwest Book Review, reviewed Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story and interviewed author Lynn C. Tolson. The review appears here.
MWBR: When you took the first step toward recovery, can you recall your feelings that day?
Tolson: I took my first step toward recovery when I asked for help. In my book, Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story, I write about driving about aimlessly after a suicide attempt. I was overwhelmed with pain. It was not the physical pain of a fractured limb, but the psychic pain of a shattered soul. As I had done before, I prayed aloud: "God, tell me what to do and show me where to go. God, show me a sign!" I can describe what happened next as divine intervention. I saw a sign at a house converted to an office: "Family Counseling Center." Even as I cried, I knocked at the door and was greeted by woman named Karen. She was a counselor there, and my therapeutic relationship with her began on that day. After our first session, I moved from feeling despair to a sense of hope.
MWBR: What one piece of advice would you like to give to women who are being abused?
Tolson: The advice I give is: make a safety plan. A woman being abused needs to stash cash and clothes in case she needs to flee suddenly. Also, she needs to know where she can run to safety. There are many shelters for women and children. A woman who is being abused should know where these shelters are before a crisis.
MWBR: Many women feel hopeless, that there is no way out, no money, no resources, no support system. What is your advice to them?
Tolson: I understand the feelings of hopelessness. Most women have no resources or support systems because the abusers are adept at isolating their victims. There is always a way out via the use of community services. Many victim advocates are available to assist every step of the way. It sounds obvious, but my advice is to peruse the community pages of the phone book to determine how a victim can be helped. There were a number of times when I looked at the yellow pages under "counseling" or "psychologists" only to then tell myself, "It's not so bad. I don't need to call." That is denial! It took an act of divine guidance to get me to face the need for help. Also, a victim can search the internet for services in her area, but she should clear the browser so an abuser does not track that she has been looking for help. Abusers are also skilled at sabotage. Even with help, it took me two years to gather my emotional and financial resources to leave the man who was abusing me. But that was in the 1970s, when there were few, if any, victim services. Now, almost every community has resources, and many take clients for no fee or on a sliding scale basis.
MWBR: Tell us a bit about your life since writing your book. What are you doing now? How are you continuing to heal? Have you had any contact with your abuser?
Tolson: My life became a book, and my book became my life. My passion is writing, and my mission is to confront violence against women. I do this via my Project for TEARS: Telling Everyone About Rape & Suicide. Women who have been abused are 13 times more likely to attempt suicide. I am on a crusade to speak out to break the silence, change societal attitudes, and comfort survivors.
The divorce from the man who was an abuser occurred in 1979, when I was twenty-five. I married a kind and compassionate man in 1988. We have been through my recovery together. We even faced the challenge of my breast cancer in the last couple of years. I went back to college in my forties to get a degree in social work. I balance the ugliness of my past with the beauty of watercolors; art is part of my ongoing healing. I also use journal writing as a powerful tool in the recovery process.
I do not have any contact with the man I was married to in the 1970s. He was eighteen years older than me, so I assume that at age 70 he is retired somewhere out there. I can only hope that he did not go on to make other women his victims.
MWBR: If you could go back to the time when you first realized you were being abused, knowing what you know today as a survivor - what would you say to your younger self?
Tolson: I grew up in an abusive family. My father and my brother both molested me and my mother was emotionally absent. My family was in a constant state of chaos. So I unwittingly repeated those patterns by marrying an abusive man. I would tell my younger self that I do not need my family to be the blueprint for my life. I can do better and I deserve better. I would tell my younger self that I have every right to protect and empower myself. I would also tell my younger self to be proud of being a survivor of such a dysfunctional family.
MWBR: Please feel free to speak about anything you would like readers to know.
Tolson: By bringing my dark secrets to light, it is my hope that others who have had similar events will know that they are not alone. Readers may explore their own emotions to open lines of communication, eliminate shame, and experience healing. I also hope that my book promotes understanding of the issues that cause individual suffering and plague our society. I'd like survivors and non-survivors to realize that recovery from abuse is not a destination; recovery is a journey that requires insight and support. There is hope!
I also work as an advocate for victims/survivors through my
Project for TEARS: Telling Everyone About Rape & Suicide
MWBR: Thank you, Lynn, for sharing more about yourself and for writing such a powerful book. Your journey will start another on her own path to healing.