VODKA O’CLOCK 2023-05:
Tracey Wilson Heisler, MA
The Shadow in Our Lives:
One family’s recovery from child sexual abuse
AMBER LOVE 31-JULY-2023 My work is supported by the generous backers at Patreon.com/amberunmasked who appreciate my reviews and my stories; and they also get first access to what’s happening with my books and podcast. Also, I have Amazon Lists so you can shop through my personal recommendations and buy my books.
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Please excuse the background noise. We recorded this in an office.
There are big TRIGGER WARNINGS with this. If you’ve been personally affected, I hope you can listen to this, read my review of The Shadow in Our Lives, and visit Tracey’s website where she has a page dedicated to resources for survivors.
- sexual abuse
- domestic abuse/violence
- childhood sexual abuse and grooming
- ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences)
We discussed Tracey’s writing process around the 1-hour mark if you would like to skip the details of the abuse in her family.
Author of The Shadow in Our Lives: One family’s recovery from child sexual abuse, Tracey Heisler, today has a Masters in Counseling Psychology, started in DV & SA, worked with JV and adult offenders, and for 20 years has worked for foster children needing advocacy. In this book she shares her family’s experience, how she would have done things differently, and providing resources to people.
“It was October 31st, 2003—Halloween. The kids had just gotten home from school, and Tracey Wilson Heisler’s family was getting ready to go trick or treating. That’s when her daughter finally confessed that she was being sexually abused.” — The Shadow in Our Lives
Tracey and I discussed more than her own story. She has particular skills in child advocacy in raising awareness to get people to want to learn more about trauma and build a sense of compassion for kids who have grown up in a dangerous world.
Tracey’s ex-husband, Dale, was the perpetrator that ignited her family’s dirty secrets coming out. She found out he was abusing their daughter on a Friday and she called the police Sunday. She didn’t know whether to call the child protection hotline or go to the police. That delay is one of her primary lessons learned which she shares openly. She knows now she should not have confronted him directly and should have had law enforcement there with her.
As a mother, she had natural fears that her children would be taken away from her not only their father.
“There are so many people who are paralyzed with fear, paralyzed with shame, worried about:
- ‘am I going to be in trouble?,’
- ‘am I gonna have my kids taken away?,’
- ‘are my kids gonna be separated?,’
- ‘are they gonna end up in foster care with strangers?,’
— so I understand the hesitation that people have to get law enforcement involved, but not [getting LE involved] is what continues the cycle and allows predators the opportunity to continue finding new victims.”
Dale’s family had its own dark past where his sisters had been molested by their father; his mother had been a victim of a relative as well. Keeping those secrets meant younger generations were exposed to predators.
“I’m trying to raise awareness for the population at large that these things do happen. It’s not the Boogieman who’s wearing a trench coat lurking around your town. It can be someone in your family. It could be someone in your parish. It can be someone at school, because they-child molesters-look for spaces to be with kids. And they are incredibly helpful. They’re incredibly charismatic. They fill a void in the family.” —Tracey Heisler
“Grooming” being a buzzword for politicians angers her. Being gay or transgender does not make you a groomer.
Heisler lists the stages generally defined as grooming:
- Identify a victim;
- Gain their trust;
- Fill a need;
- Isolate the child in a “special” relationship;
- Sexualize the relationship; and
- Maintain the control.
Her sourced statistics state: 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 or 1 in 13 boys will be molested by age of 18. In that study, the average age for a victim to tell another person was 42—carrying that fear and shame around for all those years affecting how they relate to others in every capacity.
Tracey’s ex-husband served less than 4 years. She gets updates through VINElink, but her children chose not to sign up for the service.
We also discussed Tracey’s financial situation and how she accepted a lump sum of his retirement savings in lieu of child support while he was incarcerated.
- Amber’s Review of the Book
- NJ State Sex Offender Registry
- Reveal Podcast that Tracey mentioned about indigenous people forced into boarding schools
- VINElink – a victim can sign up to receive updates about their abuser including if they’ve moved or been released from prison.