Bromley characterizes her family as picture perfect from the outside looking in. Her parents divorced when she was a year old, but her mother remarried when Bromley turned three. She describes her stepfather as “always willing to spend time with me. I never felt like an unwanted stepchild. When I wanted to play basketball, he dropped whatever he was doing to practice shooting with me. I always knew that he believed in me, and that gave me the confidence to try anything” (p. 17).
Bromley learned a lot of things from her stepfather Vince. “He showed me how to use a clutch to shift, but he also showed me pornographic movies. He taught me how to grow a big vegetable garden, but he also taught me how to stimulate a man. He made me believe that it was safe to tell him anything, but he also made me believe that it was never safe to tell anyone ‘our little secret’ ” (p. 19).
Although Bromley’s family professed Christian faith and based their values on the Bible, “there was an unspoken law in our home that we weren’t to go to church. At the time, I was never sure why we didn’t go to church, but looking back, it’s clear that Vince considered church a safe place where our little secret might slip out” (pp. 22–23).
The closest the preteen came to sharing her abuse with an adult was when she was in fifth grade and a local sheriff deputy came to her school to show a video. It turned out to be a cartoon of an uncle taking his nephew fishing, but then the uncle began to say strange things along with touching the child inappropriately. The cartoon had a physical effect on her, making her feel sick. Afterwards she whispered to her teacher that she wanted to tell her something but then blew it off by saying, “I’ll just wait and write about it during journal time on Wednesday” (p. 24). Bromley did not follow through, thinking that if it were really important her teacher would approach her and ask what she wanted to talk about.
Bromley broke the silence when she was fourteen years old in the summer of 1994 by confessing the abuse to her mother. They were driving into town on a Friday and her mother disclosed that she was afraid of Vince and inquired if he had done anything bizarre around Bromley (p. 42). She wrote, “I trusted my mother, and that gave me the courage to tell her the secret my stepfather had made me promise never to tell. Mom slammed on the brakes and pulled our minivan to the side of the road. For the first time in my life, I knew that what my stepfather had done was wrong” (p. 43).
Bromley and her mother left their house and reported Vince to the police department. A court date was scheduled for a month later. “Exactly one week after we left our home, the detective called to tell my mother that two policemen were on their way to talk with us. When they arrived, they informed us that my stepfather had committed suicide” (p. 44). This tragic event further traumatized her. Bromley struggled to find a therapist she trusted but eventually was able to find one who helped her to surface the secrets of abuse and bring healing.
This is an excellent book for those who have been victims of sexual abuse and for those who love and minister to victims. Bromley argues that true and lasting healing cannot occur apart from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. She encourages a proactive approach to recovery. “You too have a choice. You can choose to step out on God’s healing path, or you can choose to stay in your dark closet of shame and pain. Whenever you make the decision to step out, realize that healing takes time, commitment, and work. You can’t just sit in your counselor’s office and hope that the time you log there will do the trick” (pp. 90–91). The victim is not responsible for the abuse but must take responsibility for the recovery.