Lucille Sider’s new book Light Shines in the Darkness is available in hardcover and paperback and Kindle on Amazon and in hardcover and paperback on Barnes & Noble. Please help us to spark these open discussions in communities nationwide.
By DAVID CRUMM
Editor of ReadTheSpirit magazine
Millions of Americans have survived sexual abuse. Millions still are trying to keep their experiences a secret after many years—often paying a steep price for that silence. Clinical psychologist, pastoral counselor and abuse survivor Lucille Sider wants you to know: There is help and hope.
In her timely memoir Light Shines in the Darkness Lucille tells her own story of surviving abuse, finding ways to regain stability from the traumatic effects and pursuing legal remedies against her abuser. What makes this new book uniquely helpful for individuals and small-group discussion is that Lucille then steps back and adds advice from her long career in helping others. Her psychological, spiritual and even her insights about the legal process are invaluable for other survivors.
That’s why Baptist Global News Assistant Editor Jeff Brumley wrote this profile of Lucille and sent it to readers worldwide, headlined: Minister’s healing from sexual abuse intersects #MeToo era in new memoir
‘You don’t escape this with the passage of time’
“I wrote this book because I know how these experiences affect people for the rest of their lives,” Lucille said in an interview about her book. “I don’t believe for a second that the trauma is simply going to recede significantly as time passes. Once, while I was serving as a pastor, I had a 94-year-old woman reveal to me that she was sexually abused as a teenager. She needed counseling and I strongly urged her to get some counseling.
“This trauma can keep affecting our lives over and over again,” Lucille said. “When my abuser finally was put on trial, many years had passed since he abused me, but that passage of time did not matter. At that time, I remember driving down a street near where I lived—which was far from where he was at that point—and I happened to spot this man along the street. From the back, he looked like my abuser. And, I was frozen! I had to work to get myself under control again. I had to think through what I had just seen: Obviously, it wasn’t him standing on the side of the road. I knew that, at that point, my abuser was far away. But I still had that shock without any warning. And, that’s the viciousness of post traumatic stress. Wherever you are, something can trigger the fears again.
“You don’t simply escape this with the passage of time.”
Spiritual Practices Are Key
Lucille has always been a speaker and group leader. More invitations are coming her way, now, with the release of her memoir.
As prospective event organizers ask her about her message for audiences, the first thing she emphasizes is: “I did not write this book to settle scores or just to draw readers’ sympathy to me. I wrote this book to help others—all those people who have suffered abuse and especially those who have remained silent about it.”
Then, Lucille stresses: “Spiritual practices were a major way for me to stay healthy. I’m a professional, of course, but I found that I had to develop my own list of spiritual and mental-health practices that could help me to remain stable. I don’t tell people: I have recovered. I say to people: These are the ways that I remain stable.”
As a veteran psychologist, counselor and pastor, Lucille said in our interview that she is concerned when she hears anyone claim to have a formula for a cure. “I believe my story can help others, which is why I’m telling it in this book, but I don’t say to people that I have the prescription for exactly what they should do.”
In her book, for example, she describes how she reached a point of forgiveness in her life, “but I would never tell someone that their goal should be forgiveness. Forgiveness can happen, but I don’t tell people they must forgive.
“For all of these reasons, I’m concerned when I hear people say they’ve been healed from their trauma or healed from mental-health disorders. For example, I have a friend who lived with bipolar disorder for most of his life and, one day, I got an email from him that said, ‘My doctor says I’m totally healed.’ As I read those words, I almost wept, because I know the next time he goes into a manic state, he will feel doubly hurt for letting down his doctor and his family and himself.”
Finding a Path Toward ‘Stability’
In her teaching, speaking and writing, Lucille emphasizes “stability.”
“That’s the word I use. I compare this somewhat to learning that you’re diabetic. You have this condition—and you know you’ll have it throughout your life—and you learn to manage it either through your behavior and what you eat or through medication. But you don’t expect to be ‘cured’ and not ever have diabetes again. Likewise, the spiritual and mental-health practices that I describe have the goal of ‘stability,’ ” Lucille said.
“There is such a widespread need to learn more about this,” she said. “Almost everyone, if you talk with them honestly, has experienced some kind of abuse in their lifetime. It might be verbal or physical or sexual abuse. It might be spiritual abuse—because some religious leaders or groups can be abusive.
“If I was asked to organize a group in a congregation, I might say to people in my invitation something like this: ‘This is for anyone who knows someone who has been abused.’ I’ve found that many people have wrestled with forms of abuse, over the years, so I would want people to feel welcome with their questions as we began to meet and talk.
“Of course, I can’t go everywhere or meet personally with every group—which is why I wrote this book. I do honestly describe the raw experiences that have been a part of my life. I’m sure many readers will recognize these experiences. They may have had similar experiences. But I’m doing more than simply describing what happened. I step back and interpret what happened from my perspective as a clinical psychologist and sometimes I reflect from my perspective as a clergy person.
“So if you read this book, you will move with me from the narration of what happened to some analysis that I think will be helpful for readers.”
What’s the main outcome Lucille hopes will result from reading her book?
She paused in our interview and then said one word: “Empathy.”
She paused again and then said, “That’s what we really need. We need more people to have empathy for those who have been sexually abused and also for those who have wrestled with mental health issues, especially depression. That’s why I am inviting readers into my story in these pages. I want readers to understand what it feels like to live with the secrets of abuse and also to live with the effects of that trauma, including the mental health issues.
“That’s the one thing I hope in publishing this book: I want to inspire more empathy for men and women like me whose entire lives have been shaped by these challenges.”
Help Us Spread the Word …
EDITOR’s NOTE: Please help with this effort to reach survivors and their families with news of real help. I’ve devoted four decades as a journalist for major newspapers and magazines to reporting on religious and cultural diversity—including news stories about the tragic and secretive cycles of abuse within religious groups. Beyond exposing predators, the goal of this reporting is letting survivors know there is help. In recent years, I realized that congregations needed a solid, helpful book written specifically for churchgoers who struggle with the lingering trauma of abuse either in their own lives, or in the lives of loved ones. Now, we’ve got a very helpful new book! That’s why I encourage our readers to get a copy of this book to read as an individual—or to use in small group or class discussion. This book is widely available in hardcover and paperback and Kindle on Amazon and in hardcover and paperback on Barnes & Noble. You also can order the book directly through Front Edge Publishing’s website in paperback and hardcover. Please help us to spark open discussions in communities nationwide. —David Crumm