4 out of 4 stars
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By now, stories of sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy are not news. We are familiar with the numerous allegations brought against churches worldwide. In Boundaries by Leslie Daniels, readers are brought into the confidence of one of the victims as she describes the years of systematic violation she endured at the hands of a cleric in her Anglican church.
Set in Canada in the 1960s, this autobiography depicts her five years of childhood sexual abuse by Reverend Talbot, starting at age thirteen and continuing through high school. Ms. Daniels is made to believe she is in a romantic relationship with the reverend, and suffers all the guilty feelings that go along with that dysfunction. On the occasions when she tries to defend herself, the rector treats her as an accomplice and to blame for her own demise. She writes "I still saw the rector as my savior, but now also as my nemesis. I was afraid of him, but I needed him." (P.63)
More than just a tale of the actual violations, Boundaries also details the author's life story and how her destructive childhood affects her adulthood, even fifty years later. Each chapter opens with a short piece of prose related to Ms. Daniels' ongoing abuse and increasingly complex double life. Raised by neglectful parents and taught to keep her body's development secret, she does not feel she can go to anyone with the information of her violations. She comes to feel that Reverend Talbot is all-powerful, and that no one will help her even if she has the courage to tell. She writes "With every thought, it became clear that his word was law, the truth." (P.43)
Boundaries is emotionally difficult to read. The prolonged abuse endured by Ms. Daniels is appalling, even though it is not unique. What I had not read about before is the guilt felt by the victims due to their own body's natural responses to touch, even though the victim is afraid and not complicit. The author expertly depicts this added layer of humiliation and shame.
As I read the autobiography I was astounded by Reverend Talbot's boldness and lack of shame. I found myself wondering if there was a network of clerics committing the same crimes against children nationwide, since there are so many stories similar to Ms. Daniels' experience. Did they give each other advice on how to lure children into their sadistic web? How could prolonged, systematic abuse happen on such a grand scale? It is not news, but the content of the book still enraged me.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. The editing is superb and the story, although disturbing, is enthralling. Readers who like autobiographies of abuse survivors will appreciate this book. Beware, though, the author describes her repeated victimizations in detail. You may need to read this book in small parts, as the depictions can be overwhelming. Kudos to Ms. Daniels for her bravery and perseverance through an ordeal that could have destroyed her completely, and for sharing her story.
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