Sometimes the strongest manacles in this life are the bonds forged from painful memories of a past so horrific, that they shackle and incarcerate the very essence of one’s soul…inevitably, the constraint is a life sentence.It’s storming outside–I’m talkin’ the kind of storm that produces the little red stripe at the bottom of the TV, flashing warnings of impending doom and destruction on a scale of Armageddon. Yet, aside from the frequent bomb blasts of thunder and techno-flashes of lightning, my hotel room is eerily quiet–almost deafeningly so.
My Prison Without Bars" is available in print and as a e-book.
Taylor Fulks' powerful book, "My Prison Without Bars" tackles her own story of sexual child abuse. I recommend everyone to read it and educate yourselves on the horrors of this vast problem in our society today
Taylor your book, "My Prison Without Bars" is a powerful book. It's also very personal; can you tell us what inspired you to write it? My book is very dark, disturbing, and quite graphic. It didn’t start out that way I can assure you. I sat down to write Mystery/Romance. My children are almost grown and will soon be off to live their own lives. I needed something to occupy my mind in their absence. I’m a voracious reader (over 700 books since 2007) and I thought, “I can write a book. How hard can it be?” I found myself unable to write what I wanted. I think all of us sit down and write what we know, at least the first time we put pen to paper.
I kept hearing a little voice in the back of my head (I’m tight, I assure you! I don’t have conversations in my head) this niggling…“Tell your story.” So I did. It started out pretty much like the other stories out there about child sexual abuse; innocuous, letting the reader make their own inferences and images, not too much, but just enough detail that you could get the gist of what had happened. Then Penn State, Joe Paterno, Jerry Sandusky and the whole Child Sexual Abuse scandal hit the national news. I was one third of the way into my story when all hell broke loose.
I was enthralled; thrilled not only with the stance taken by the University and the NCAA against Penn State’s Athletic Department and Joe Paterno, but also the ruling by the Justice System against the now convicted, Jerry Sandusky. I watched everything I could concerning the case, hoping that this high profile situation would bring to light the millions afflicted by this pandemic.
I watched interviews being grossly edited, then riots and vigils being staged by students and faculty on campus.
Then my life changed forever.
I watched in horror as a large group of students, faculty, and some University administrators were being interviewed on the campus after the statue of Joe Paterno was unceremoniously taken down. They were outraged and very vocal.
I watched an older gentleman look into the camera and cry foul, saying, “The punishment is too harsh for the crime!”
I was beyond RAGE… A door in my head swung open and something inside of me snapped! I actually felt possessed. I went to the beginning of my novel, read through the first eight chapters that described the abuse (leaving much to the reader’s imagination) then I tore it to shreds! I started OVER…
The words poured out of me like a faucet with a busted valve. I wrote with rage and fury, letting the words and experiences flow from the depths of my soul. I didn’t care who would know my secret. I didn’t care what people would think of me. I had to show anyone that would listen what children endure at the hands of someone bigger, stronger, and determined to steal innocence. I wrote until my hand cramped and my fingers were numb…then I cried. I cried for myself and then for all the innocent children that are lost and have no voice. I cried in solitude, for the little girl inside of me…
Your book is a brave account of the painful horrific memories you faced from sexual abuse and it's getting great reviews. Has it been a healing source for you? I am still in shock at the response my book has received. My novel to date has done very well. On Amazon it has over 140~ 5 star reviews out of 165 and has been ranked in the Top 25 in two categories for twenty-eight weeks. On Goodreads, my book maintains a 4.5 rating and has over 90 ratings/reviews.
June 1st 2013, my little “taboo novel” won 1st Place in the prestigious IRDA, 2013 INDIE READER DISCOVERY AWARDS sponsored by Createspace and presented at the BEA, BOOK EXPO OF AMERICA (the largest trade show for publishers and authors in the world) in NYC. I went to New York to accept this award.
I was recently notified that my book is a Gold Medal Winner in my category Reality/Fiction in the 2013 READERS FAVORITE INTERNATIONAL BOOK AWARDS . The award ceremony will be held in Miami, Florida in mid-November. I plan to attend that ceremony as well. I am truly humbled by the honors.
So many people ask me if this has been a cathartic or healing endeavor. I won’t be bold enough to speak on behalf of all survivors (I hate that word. I prefer warriors) but, I don’t believe you can be healed.
You can drive nails into a piece of furniture; strip the varnish and the stain. You can sand it, add wood filler, sand it, stain it, and varnish again, but the damage is still there. It’s still a beautiful piece of furniture; sturdy, functional, and serves a purpose in the décor. But it is never the same. The damage is forever.
I wrote my story in first person, as a novel or fictional memoir from the mind, body, and heart of a child. I didn't want to shock or be grotesque...I wanted people to truly know the permanent damage that is inflicted, to know the depths of fear and self-loathing, and to really feel through the experiences of an abused child.
It wasn’t until I sat down to edit, that I truly realized the magnitude of what I had written. Don’t get me wrong, I never forgot, blacked out or had repressed memories…No, I remember everything that happened to me, down to the smells and noises around me. But it wasn’t until I read what I had committed to paper, saw from the perspective of the child I had been, that I really got the significance of what I was about to do.
So, for good or bad, I laid myself naked and exposed to the world (or at least to the few friends that would actually read my book). I bared myself before everyone to be judged, criticized and condemned. I left nothing to the imagination. I take the reader far beyond what is comfortable and far beyond what most would consider appropriate. And in the telling, I have been set free.
I spent thirteen months reliving my childhood nightmare with the goal of exorcising my demons, gaining some sense of self-esteem, healing myself, and finally telling my dirty little secret with full disclosure, while giving the reader full access to my heart. Oddly, I didn't find the outcomes I expected...self-absolution, understanding, and self-forgiveness. But I did find something I didn't expect... Acceptance .
My life is what it is. My experiences happened in the past. I don't live there anymore. I can choose to be angry and ashamed for the rest of my life, or I can accept my life for what it's been, what it is now, and move toward the light...
I was also sexually abused at a young age and had issues surrounding sex for years, but I also had 5 years of therapy. Have you had therapy for your abuse? My sweet friend, you are yet another “sister of my soul.” We know that dark place all too well. Though no one’s hell is worse than another’s…while we are there, we endure it alone.
Yes I have had therapy, both as a child and as an adult. I think therapy is a wonderful tool to help survivors gain perspective and work through issues they may not be able to conquer on their own. However, I didn’t find it helpful in my case.
For whatever reason, I believe God granted me unusual insight concerning my abuse. Even at a young age, I knew down deep, I didn’t cause the abuse (even though my mother blamed me) and I didn’t deserve to have it happen to me. But it did. I found the therapy a useless rehashing of painful memories, nightmares and events. This pertains to me only…I am a strong proponent of seeking professional help with any traumatic experience.
Since your inner child was so deeply hurt, what things have you done to heal yourself and what do you recommend for those who have suffered similar circumstances? There is freedom with the “telling.” Writing my story has purged the memories and nightmares. Reading and re-reading what I experienced has given me perspective. It has allowed me to step outside myself and look at my life objectively.
My mother knew what was going on, yet did nothing to stop the abuse. For years, my anger and rage has been a constant slow boil, like a pressure cooker inside of me, never allowed to spill over or let off steam. I never allowed myself to feel the appropriate feelings of anger towards my mother, after all, you’re supposed to love your mother; God and society demand it.
Penning my life on paper has allowed me to evaluate my feelings toward her, as well as my abuser. I’m still working on that aspect of my life. I have two daughters I love more than my own life…That being said, I’ve come to the realization that my own mother didn’t love me in that way, and was incapable of doing so. I’m still trying to come to terms with that and accept it.
As for recommendations to abuse victims, there are no pat answers, no generalized therapy modalities that are a cure-all for the damage inflicted. When I wrote My Prison Without Bars, I purposely wrote it as a fictional novel, not a true memoir, because I feared readers might look to me for answers. Unfortunately, I have none. What works for one person may not work for another, but there is no chance of freedom unless you tell. You must claw your way out of the darkness; there you will find help in the light. Seek therapy, or counseling. Find a friend or close relative you trust…the most important thing is to tell.
What were some of the issues you faced from this abuse that damaged you as an adult? Yeesh! I hate to admit it, but there are many.
I knew I would always fear someone lurking under my bed, waiting for me to fall asleep so they could pounce. I was thirty-eight before I could sleep without having objects stored under my bed; no chance of anyone being under there.
I knew I would always have issues with being confined during sex, or have aversions to certain sexual positions. I was tied to my bed and gagged by my abuser.
I knew I would always have trust issues where men were concerned. You can’t live with a monster night after night for nine years of your childhood, enduring the most heinous abuses without some permanent damage. No one came to my rescue.
I seemed to have a homing device, a vulnerability about me that attracted the wrong men. I kept my dirty secret and tried to please. I was always so desperate for love that I took what morsels were offered.
So, I lived most of my life in shame and secrecy. It took the small voice of a child…the child inside of me, to break the silence. I finally listened and gave her a voice.
What is the best advice you can give to others who have suffered from sexual abuse? You are not alone. Sexual abuse happens to one in four girls and one in six boys between the ages of six and seventeen, and those are only the reported cases in the US. Don’t let what happened define who and what you are. You lived it! You survived it! You’re a warrior!
Write about your experience; not to publish or share with anyone, but for yourself. Write in detail, everything you can remember, from the smells and sounds, to the way you felt before, during, and after. Then read it over and over and over. Words have the power to change how you view things, especially your own words. Words can yield clarity and perspective in a world of chaos.
You can get help by contacting these and many other advocacy organizations. You don’t have to suffer in shame and silence…TELL.
I want to thank you Devin for the invitation to be your guest. Because of the content and nature of my book, I don’t get many invitations. I applaud your courage. It takes far more courage to speak out and make people aware…to go against the current, than it does to go with the tide to a place everyone has been. You honor me, my story, and my life. I am truly humbled.