What causes men, or women, to become abusers? Are they born with an abusive personality? Are they evil? Are they monsters?
In my novel, The Dark Room, I explore the issue of abuse which can manifest in three ways: physical, psychological and verbal. Some abusers employ all three ways of controlling their victim(s). But why? Through extensive research for this book, I learned that many factors contribute to the need for power and control over another human being.
In The Dark Room, Hank, the antagonist experiences a traumatic event that precipitates his downward spiral into violence. He begins to abuse alcohol and drugs, attempting to dull the pain of his dark memory. In his drunken stupors, he beats and humiliates his wife, Stella, their daughter, Amy, and granddaughter, Jodie. After Hank forces Amy to buy his drugs, she ends up in prison. He locks Amy’s illegitimate daughter, Jodie, in a dark room and chains her to a bed. He beats her and her grandmother, Stella, nearly every day.
Later, the reader learns that Hank’s father abused him, his mother, and his brothers. Often such behaviors are perpetuated through generations. Without intervention, the abused becomes the abuser.
Battered Woman Syndrome and child abuse result from fear of losing control. By overpowering the vulnerable in their lives, people like Hank maintain control the only way they think they can.
Why would anyone want to read about such horrors? Sometimes at book events, women say to me, “I can’t read that. I lived it.” I don’t even try to convince them that The Dark Room is a good story, worth their time; that it includes a beautiful romance and a happy ending. I understand. If I hadn’t married a good, kind man and raised good, kind children, I couldn’t have written The Dark Room. It would have hit too close to home for me, too.
In The Dark Room, Stella is befriended by her boss, Edith, who recognizes the signs of abuse. Edith is determined to help Stella escape her seemingly hopeless situation. Edith enlists the help of Mike a police sergeant who eventually becomes her love interest. In Edith, Stella finds a trusted friend. Edith is supported by Mike, a good, kind man who provides balance and reason.
I wrote The Dark Room to bring attention to a subject most of us prefer to ignore. It’s uncomfortable to think about innocent children being beaten, starved or hidden away. It’s unpleasant to think about women like Stella being pushed, punched, and called demeaning names until they believe they are worthless and powerless, convinced they deserve the abuse. I wrote this book to enlighten those who refuse to believe the horror exists across all races, ages, educational levels, and socio-economic conditions. It does.
I wrote The Dark Room for people who suspect someone in their lives is being abused. It’s possible (and common) for her to be in denial. Give her this book. Perhaps she will recognize herself in Stella or one of the women Stella meets at the shelter. You could save her life.
I wrote The Dark Room for women who think they are trapped with no way out. I want them to recognize there are steps they can take, people they can trust, and organizations that can empower them.
Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Diary in the Attic, Unrevealed and The Dark Room. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available through amazon.com or hightidepublications.com