A courageous chronicle of abuse and redemption.
Danish activist, economist, and writer Andersen writes with striking clarity about the first two decades of her life. The book is not only a personal story of success in the face of ongoing trauma, but also an exploration of interventions that fell short. Following a chronological format, the author catalogs the unimaginable cruelties she endured during her formative years within family encounters, foster care, group homes, and orphanages. Each account includes missed opportunities for intercession on the part of someone with the capacity and opportunity to help her emerge from “a childhood characterized by betrayal, violence, and sexual assault.” Andersen’s candor about the trusted adults who repeatedly violated her illuminates painful yet vital insights about how to recognize and address the sometimes-contradictory and often undermining effects of childhood trauma. As she chronicles how she overcame years of extreme abuse to eventually thrive, Andersen’s revelations of intimate betrayals are often chilling, and many readers may be shocked or outraged. They should continue to read, however, because the book advances an important broader purpose: undergirding the value of survivors’ voices as instrumental to guiding future policies, advocacy, and change. Closing with descriptions of visits with her incarcerated brother and estranged mother, the author shows the difference that successful interventions can make. Her history of trauma shaped her lifelong passion for protecting vulnerable populations, and this tightly distilled collection of memories serves as an urgent call to public action and reform with regard to children’s rights. This is a triumphant, empowering book that calls into question current patterns of intervention and challenges popular conceptions about what it means to believe young girls. “Whether you’re a neighbor, a social worker, a schoolteacher, or a grandparent, you must and should act,” writes Andersen. “In this book, you’ll meet many people who acted on my behalf. I hope they will inspire you to reach out as well.”
A potent memoir of fragility and transcendence.