Thank God I finally got a job after almost a year of dealing with background checks and suspicious employers. I can’t say I blame them–with so many people desperate for work to choose from–for passing on an applicant with a murder charge on her record, but most of them overlooked the “Not Guilty” outcome and didn’t even give me a chance. I like my new job, and it keeps me busy, but another thing keeping me busy is that my co-author, Lisa Bonnice, and I put the finishing touches with the publisher on our book Fear of our Father.
We started the process in 2010 and are now awaiting the publication date in June 2013. For me, it was a labor of love and hope to change many views on how abuse is seen: just because things look normal out in public, no one–and I really mean no one–ever really knows what goes on behind closed doors. I am hoping with this book to help people to recognize subtle signs or to have the courage to openly ask if they see bruises or just have that “gut feeling” that something is wrong.
Writing a book was never on my mind until I began therapy in 2010. My therapist, Jessica, always said that I have a story to share to show people a side of abuse that no one understands. She was a strong advocate for this project and it was a painstaking process for both of us. As each part of the book unfolded, a therapy session or two were always in order to face the issue. It was hard to share my life, even with my therapist, and we worked tirelessly to heal the pain as Lisa pulled the story out of me.
There were times of frustration and very demeaning feelings towards myself. In my mind, I could and did make everything that went wrong my fault. Even now, I am very harsh with myself. That may always be a challenge for me. You see, when you live a childhood like mine, you never see any worth in who you are or why you are even still alive. This is getting better, but I have to work on this daily.
Many people think that therapy is not necessary, but for me it was life-saving. After the trial I didn’t know how to feel normal again. I had to relive parts of my childhood that I never thought anyone would know about. When the trial was televised on In Session (formerly Court TV), I was mortified. I knew I had to do something to ease the pain and anxiety, so I looked on the internet for a therapist. I read many profiles, picked one, and for various reasons my first choice declined to see me.
Then I found Jessica, and we set up a meeting. I was very nervous, wondering if my arrest and trial would make her afraid, like they did with so many other people. I was thrilled that she agreed to work with me and the last three years we have traveled many roads of healing. The stories of my life that I am able to tell are in the book, and even that much disclosure was excruciating. Many stories are still too personal to share, and three years later I am still trying to conquer them.
The best thing that therapy did for me was make me realize that I have a right to live my life and move forward. I do not have to stay stuck in my past or continue to define myself by what my father did to me–to all of us. Therapy, even today, is teaching me to be gentle with myself and to accept that many events I could not have changed. I am extremely grateful for Jessica.
Going to therapy and writing this book have brought to the forefront my desire to help others caught in this cycle of abuse. I’ve talked in past blogs about the program that Lisa and I (and Stacy Lynn Rasmussen) are developing, Amnesty From Abuse. I want to help those who are abused, as well as abusers, find their way to healthier ways of living, like I have. Obviously, this is a gargantuan undertaking and will take many special people, but even at a young age I would dream of a way to help abused children while desperately wishing someone could help me and my family.
I want the program to be available to anyone in an abusive household to get the help they need. I want to offer abusers who truly want to be different a program that they can and must follow to the letter. Many people say that abusers only belong behind bars and, honestly, if they are anything like my father I totally agree. However, some people don’t want to abuse others but that is all they know. For them to have a nonjudgmental opportunity to heal and change, I feel, is tantamount to ending the cycle of abuse.
I usually end each blog with a hope for my family to heal. However this one is different. Lisa’s daughter has read Fear of our Father and expressed how incredibly strong she thought I must be to have survived this life. That feels good to hear, because I don’t think of myself that way. But I want everyone to realize and remember that my entire family–my mom, brother, and sister–lived with this daily abuse, too. We were all strong in our own ways, and each of us dealt with this abuse in our own ways, so my family members have my respect for surviving.
I hope that everyone who reads Fear of our Father finds something they can use to help others in abusive situations. I hope that anyone in an abusive situation who reads it finds strength in the message that they can survive. I hope that, together, we can all change the way abuse is handled and treated in our society.
Stacey M. Kananen
Advocate, Author, Abuse survivor
Co-founder of Amnesty From Abuse
Stacey Kananen’s father violently and sexually abused his entire family. He vanished in 1988 and 15 years later his wife went missing. Stacey’s brother had killed both parents. Stacey cooperated as a witness until he told police that she helped him with the crimes. She was arrested and her trial, which aired on CNN’s In Session, ended with a not guilty verdict after her attorney proved that she had been railroaded.
Now that her personal life is no longer private, Stacey is using her story to make waves. She and co-author Lisa Bonnice have signed a publishing deal with Berkley Books. They created the Amnesty From Abuse program to address the dynamic that stops families from asking for help: fear, shame and hopelessness. She states, “If a program like this existed during my childhood, both parents would be alive, my brother would not be in jail and my family would have been spared years of anguish and terror.”
Fear of Our Father – Berkley Books, 2013
Emmy nominated BBC Documentary: America’s Child Death Shame