Report from the Field: “Letter to the Washington Post”

On June 10, the Washington Post published an article, “One Way to End Violence Against Women? Married Dads,” claiming that girls are safest when growing up in homes with their fathers. Appearing in the Post just before Father’s Day, the article recycles the rosy 1950s-era myth of the nuclear family with the father-protector at its center. I, along with countless other girls and women, was not safer in that kind of home. My father was a predator, not a protector. Yet so much that passes for reasoned critique in the media is, increasingly, just sloganeering, taunting, repeating falsehoods until they become truths. As a writer of three memoirs, I have experienced first-hand the pushback women get when they tell their own authentic, more challenging stories. Too many of our stories, too many women’s voices, speaking our truths, are belittled or ignored. Here’s a letter I wrote in response to the Post. Not surprisingly, they chose not to publish it. Thanks so much to VIDA for letting my voice be heard:

“Like many other people, I was deeply troubled by your recent article ‘One Way to End Violence Against Women? Married Dads.’ What this article willfully ignores is the high rate of father/daughter incest. My father sexually molested me from the age of four until I left home for college. Growing up, I couldn’t have been more unsafe in my own home, even though my family, to the outside, appeared to be perfect.

“What would help girls and women be safer in their homes would be if the media chose to write more articles about the epidemic of incest and domestic violence, or, in other words, what goes on behind closed doors in ‘ordinary’ American homes every week, every day, every hour. I grew up in an upper middle-class family, yet emotionally and physically I was destitute, spiritually homeless, because of a father who hurt me and a mother who looked the other way while it happened.

“Domestic sexual violence is a human rights issue, one that takes place on a hidden battlefield. I was held captive by my father. I was a POW in my own home. No one ever mounted a rescue mission and, when I did finally ‘escape’ to leave home for college, I was not awarded any medals for surviving. I went on with my life, albeit a very damaged life. Statistics suggest that there are many more of us than those who have survived any other kind of war…because our war simply goes on, under-reported.”

Sue SilvermanSue William Silverman’s new memoir is The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew, part of the American Lives Series with the University of Nebraska Press. Her three previous books are Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction, which is also a Lifetime television movie; Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, which won the Association of Writers and Writing Programs award in creative nonfiction; as well as Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir. As a professional speaker, Sue gives presentations at colleges and non-profit organizations. She has also appeared on The View, Anderson Cooper 360, CNN-Headline News, and the Discovery channel. She teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Please visit


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