The fact that so many children are sexually abused in their homes by their parents, step-parents or siblings, is a despicable little secret that most people manage not to think much about until they learn that someone they know has been victimized that way. It might be a neighbor or it might be a relative, but the shock is the same. But, as Beth Fehlbaum makes clear in Courage in Patience, we should not be so surprised.
Ashley Asher has been sexually abused by her step-father since she was nine years old and her mother does not seem to be aware that it is happening. For a while, Ashley even tried to pretend to herself that it was not happening and she created a place in her mind she could retreat to when it did happen. She has come to recognize the “whooshing” sound she hears in her head when faced with the approach of her step-father as a sign that she is tuning out the world, her way of coping with the ugliness around her. Her retreat allows her, in fact, to forget the details of what her step-father does to her and, once it is all over, she is never quite sure exactly what has happened.
But Ashley is no longer nine years old. Despite the six years of abuse she has suffered at the hands of the animal that lives in her home, she has become a bright, but emotionally scarred, young lady. She finally finds the courage to reveal what has been happening to her to a friend who, in turn, manages to get Ashley to speak with a high school counselor.
And that is how Ashley Asher found herself living in Patience, Texas, with the father she had never met.
As so often seems to happen in sexual abuse cases where a step-father is involved, Ashley’s mother refuses to believe that her new husband is abusing her daughter. She simply does not want to believe that her husband is capable of such a thing and she is so desperate to keep him that she works hard to convince herself that her daughter is a liar – or even worse, that Ashley is the aggressor and has been actively seducing her husband.
This lack of support from her mother has done as much damage to Ashley as the sexual abuse she has suffered. She is guilt-ridden and blames herself for much of what has happened. She struggles to fit into her new family, one that includes a brother she never knew she had and a woman who is more a mother to her than the one she left behind. Thankfully, Ashley Asher has found support groups, both at home and at school, that will help her to overcome the hard reality of having had her childhood so brutally stolen from her.
Courage in Patience is a hopeful book, one that will offer comfort and inspiration to those who have, themselves, suffered this kind of abuse. Perhaps even more importantly, the book is written in a way that makes it perfect for study and discussion in high school English classes around the world. It just might give young abuse victims the courage they need to save themselves from this kind of thing before it becomes too late for them. This is an important book, one from which I learned much about why sexual abuse in the home can go on for so many years without it being exposed, and one which I hope courageous high school teachers will embrace and teach for the benefit of their students.
Rated at: 5.0