Friday, 21 October 2016

Book review: "Who gave you permission?"

Manny Waks and Michael Visontay, Who gave you permission?:  the memoir of a child sexual-abuse survivor who fought back.  Melbourne:  Scribe Publications, 2016.

Reviewed by Bob Faser

This book is concerned with child sexual abuse within a faith community.  It’s a true story, written by a survivor of abuse.  As a rare account of abuse written by a survivor, this is a particularly valuable resource.

While Manny Waks’s story is set within the particular context of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Melbourne, it is relevant to anyone with a concern for justice for those who have experienced child sexual abuse. 

This book tells of how the author was sexually abused as a child, with the abuse taking place by people respected and trusted by his family and, at times, within sacred spaces. 

It tells of the negative impact this abuse had on the author during his adolescence and young adulthood. 

It tells of the author’s decision as an adult to go public with his complaints against his two abusers, of the implications of this decision as felt both by him and by his family, and of his on-going quest for justice, both for himself and for other survivors and victims of child sexual abuse.

Three themes stand out at the end of Manny’s book. 

The first theme is that, well into adulthood, the abuse experienced by Manny (both by his sexual abusers and by those who pressured him to remain silent about the abuse) is still deeply traumatic, both for Manny and for his family.

The second theme is the fact that this abuse – and the cover-up – took place in a religious context has led to a deep loss of faith for Manny.  This is a common theme for many survivors of child sexual abuse in faith communities.

The third theme is that … even in the midst of the trauma, … even in the midst of the loss of faith, … even in the midst of his on-going struggle for justice for himself and for others, Manny still exhibits a profound generosity of spirit toward all concerned:  a generosity of spirit which I find seriously impressive.

If you read only one Australian non-fiction book in the next few months, read this one.

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