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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
Believing myself to be a reasonably healed survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I didn’t expect to find myself becoming teary-eyed as I read Don’t Expect Me to Cry by Janet Bentley. But her story moved me and touched me more deeply than the many other books I have read by those who have bravely told or even written their own books, myself included. Why? Was what Janet Bentley lived through and survived any worse than what the rest of us suffered? It’s impossible to answer that as ultimately, regardless of when, where, how and by whom the sexual abuse was committed, the true suffering is what takes place not just at the time, but in the decades that follow. But what did bring me to tears was not so much the sexual abuse itself, but the agony and despair Janet endured on her path to recovery as she recognized how her insecurities were impacting her current day to day functioning and inability to move on.
What Bentley has captured so well in Don’t Expect Me to Cry is just how deeply the memories of the abuse are buried. The author’s own ordeal began at the tender age of 4. With the eventual help of therapists, she was able to go deep enough to find and face those memories. But along the way, not only she, but her two husbands and children suffered with her prescription med addictions, her suicide attempts, and her inability to trust or get close to even those she loved. This is the true story of an adult who is desperate to move past the pain, desperate to make peace with her terribly abused inner child. Ultimately, she succeeds. But the bottom line, as we abuse victims know, is that we never, ever fully “just get over it”… as so many who have never been abused tell us to do.
While Don’t Expect Me to Cry is encouraging, it’s also a reminder that healing and coping with those horrible memories is a life-long battle of small victories in a war never fully won. Why do I say that? Because Janet Bentley, just like me and millions of others who have been sexually abused by a father, spend our lives wondering “why”… not just “why me?” but “Why didn’t Daddy love me?” or “Did Daddy ever love me at all?” That is the one question which we cannot answer. Bravo, Janet Bentley, for coming out from under child sexual abuse. Your book will help others do the same.