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Dan Williams

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Above His Shoulders
by Dan Williams   

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Publisher:  Outskirts Press ISBN-10:  143273749X


Copyright:  2009 ISBN-13:  9781432737498

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Above His Shoulders

A True Account of Sexual Abuse, its Impact on Relationships, and the Emotional Survival and Healing

   Many books have been written about sex abuse survivors, child sex abuse, mental health, spirituality, family dysfunction, and post-traumatic stress. Very few are written about men disclosing their own experience of surviving these life traumas. This book provides courage for men, as well as women, to disclose their traumas and find hope in their lives. Above His Shoulders is a true story and a true inspiration!

   Dan Williams discloses his own experience with sexual abuse, his psychological torment throughout his life’s journey, and shares how this destroyed his relationships as well as his self esteem. His perseverance to look for new horizons and healing was a conscious and unconscious one. This is portrayed time and again. Dr. Williams is forthright with his own mistakes and shortcomings. He gives his readers his own recipe for hope and love.  A healthy life, and a complete sense of self, is not simply purchased through a therapy session. It can be a quest that takes a lifetime.

   Above His Shoulders is a memoir that stands alone with the emotional pain of a young child unable to disclose his secret. Rides on his daddy’s shoulders stopped and his emotional roller coaster of life began. When many other events compound his life, he realizes that healing one’s soul must begin by going back to one’s roots. This is not merely a memoir of sexual abuse but a story of an intense father-son bond. That bond was not just a teaching of morals and parental values, but a lesson in the parallels of nature that we all too often minimize. Dan takes you on a journey where nature, spirituality, and solitude played a key role in his healing. Alternative methods of healing embraced him. He struggled with organized religion until he experienced Native American spirituality. His story is portrayed with metaphors that will leave you fulfilled long after you close the last page.

   His rural roots and life of hunting, fishing, and listening to the St. Louis Cardinals all played an integral role in how he coped with his traumas. He discloses his anger, depression, and quest for giving back to others. When suicide appears to become an option, the reader can easily feel the despair and isolation that many abuse victims experience.

   Above His Shoulders is emotionally painful and elegiac at times, however, you will leave this story with hope and a desire to give something back to others.

The following is the beginning of chapter 1 in Above His Shoulders.

Tears rolled down his cheeks as his father offered him a ride on his shoulders, as he had done so many times in the past. Seven years on Earth may seem brief, but they already felt like a lifetime. How could he? He was no longer a child. No more innocence, no more children’s games, and no more rides on his father’s shoulders. He ran to the confines of an old oak tree, expelling screams and tears from a tiny heart filled with emotion. The large roots came out of the ground like humps on a camel. He could easily hide between them and commune with the large black carpenter ants moving rapidly to and from their homes. He had hurt his father’s feelings without explanation, but he couldn’t tell him. He could never tell him why he couldn’t climb onto one of the safest places he knew, his dad’s shoulders. A tear fell to the ground, diverting an ant on his busy journey. Feelings of anger clouded his head. Where was his dad that day, the day the horrific event took place? His dad had always been there to protect and comfort him. He was a large man, 6′2″, solid, lean, with a Marine Corps tattoo emblazoned on his right arm. No one else would dare hurt him, but he had. He knew he had hurt his feelings, and there had been no resolution. He lay down between the roots of the old oak tree, staring up between the limbs at a bright blue sky broken by branches. It reminded him of a large cobweb, and he was just a fly caught, waiting for the tremble of an approaching spider.

He remembered how it had started, how his father would get down on all fours, pretending to be “Silver” from the Lone Ranger. He would hold on with all his might as his father tried to buck him off. He knew he could break that wild horse if only he could hold on long enough. But he also knew the longer he held on, the quicker his steed would tire, and then the ride would be over. He desperately wanted to hold onto “Silver” forever.

He couldn’t recall when he had progressed to the shoulder ride, but it didn’t matter. He knew it was oh, so special. The three acres the old house stood on might as well have been the size of Texas and through the years, they had explored every inch. They had seen where the garter snakes dwelt, where the rabbits burrowed, and where the squirrels buried their acorns. The day he rose up on those shoulders, he could see it all. It was amazing! He could see farther than he could have imagined, as if to touch the sky. He could grasp at branches, was forced to duck upon entering the house, and could even reach the ceiling once they made it in. His father grasped his legs tightly, and never was there such security as was to be found above those shoulders. He longed for those days, but they had come to an end. He knew his life had now changed forever.

The jaunts on his dad’s shoulder’s weren’t merely for pleasure, but oftentimes for necessity. Whether trekking on fishing trips, walking the fields of Southern Illinois, or searching for Indian artifacts, sooner or later they would come upon a cool stream or muddy canal and the refuge of his dad’s shoulders became his safe passage. His father was still his “Silver”, carrying him safely across the waters, giving respite when his legs became fatigued, and just lifting him on high when the occasion or the view compelled it. In his tears was also loss; the loss of his childhood, the lost contact with his dad, the lost security on those powerful shoulders. He could recall many hot summer days, where the humidity forced people out onto their porches like ants scrambling off a burning log to drink tall glasses of lemonade or iced tea. On days like that, the shoulder rides would always be shorter, and many afternoons he felt the bristle of his fathers unshaven beard upon his knees. His father was aware of this, and would from time to time unexpectedly kiss his knees, or use his hands as a barrier to prevent the soft skin from chafing.

He was bombarded by memories. In his life, he had never experienced this degree of anguish. There were days he dreamed of pitching for the Cardinals, imagining himself up on the mound while at the same time trying to focus on both his homework and Topo Gigo, Ed Sullivan’s little Italian mouse. Never had he experienced so many memories, and in such little time. Though his heart was racing, his tears began to slow, and he allowed his thoughts to enter.

There was an unseasonably warm December Saturday, which led to a rabbit hunt with his dad. He was too young to carry a gun, but had with him his hickory stick, with which he was skilled. He had taken down many wild animals with that stick (usually in the confines of his bedroom, where the brass hooks of his clothing tree became the points of powerful buck). He rarely missed, and on this crisp day, he hoped he would have the same luck. His travels had taken him by this weed patch before, but he had never ventured in, due to the height and thickness of the undergrowth. The coming of the summer brought spiders, snakes, bees, lions, and other, more exotic creatures from distant lands. Of course no one had ever reported seeing a lion, but surely they could exist, he thought. Why should he go into the weed patch alone? Why should he place himself in danger for no reason? But today was different. Today he was with his dad, the protector, the human ladder that had always served him so faithfully.

Professional Reviews

Editorial Review
A true account of sexual abuse, its emotional impact on relationships, and the emotional survival and healing. At the end of each chapter, Dr. Williams offers metaphors, suggestions, and advice to proceed through the pain and proceed on a path of recovery. Riveting, emotional, and brutally honest. Hope does exist for all victims of abuse - sexual and emotional. Much more than a life story, a reckoning and resolution of demons that haunt us all.

Edward Blackoff
‘Above His Shoulders gives an encouraging look at how a sex abuse victim has overcome severe damage and offered a helpful message...I laud his courage and his coming out publicly with the violation and its impact on his life and those he loved. We need more courageous people like Dr. Williams. ’
—Edward Blackoff, Actor, Producer, Director
2007 HBO Documentary "Incest, A Family Tragedy"
2007 Winner Best Documentary Beverly Hills Film Festival

Carl Hammerschlag
‘This book is a hero's journey that reminds us we too can liberate ourselves from old trauma and heal. ’
-Carl Hammerschlag, M.D. Author, Speaker
The Dancing Healers, The Theft of the Spirit, Healing Ceremonies

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