The Last Frontier: Is Reconciliation
Possible After Sexual Abuse?
My name is Laura Davis. I’m the co-author of The Courage to Heal. I have also written three other books about healing from abuse: The Courage to Heal Workbook, Allies in Healing and Beginning to Heal. I am honored that my books have helped millions of people around the world.
They have helped me, too. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, and I know how hard the process of recovery can be. That’s why I’ve spent the last fifteen years supporting survivors and their families.
I also know from personal experience how it feels to be cut off from your family because of childhood sexual abuse. I have felt the anguish, grief, frustration, and loneliness caused by damaged relationships with siblings, parents, and children. In the last two decades, I have fought with my family, been cut off from them, tried to ignore them, and ultimately learned to make peace with them.
If you had told me 19 years ago that I would have loving relationships with my family today, I would have said you were crazy. That’s how much of a surprise our reconciliation has been.
If your life has been affected by sexual abuse, too, and you’re wondering if there’s a way to heal the rifts in your family, I can help you. I can’t guarantee that you will end up with your mother, father, sister or brother back in your life (in some cases, it’s better for you if they’re not in your life), but I can guarantee that I can help you find a deeper sense of peace and resolution than you have today.
"I now know I can love things about my brother and still hate what he did to me. Thank you for making my heart large enough to contain such complex and honest feelings."
-Antonio, San Jose, California
"Thank you! Your healing words are essential and full of love."
– Tatiana, Chicago, Illinois
How does this work? Let me start by telling you my own story of abuse, family hostility, and reconciliation.
I Thought I’d Never Speak To My Mother Again
Twenty-four years ago, I remembered that my grandfather had sexually abused me when I was a child. I was completely devastated. When I told my mother what her father had done, she felt betrayed and angry. But she wasn’t angry with my grandfather. She was furious with me for tarnishing the memory of a man she had deeply loved.
I remember how I felt as I hung up the phone. I had never felt more alone. My mother had let me down when I needed her the most. I couldn’t imagine living without her support. I had no choice but to shoulder the burden I carried and find my own path toward healing and wholeness-without her by my side.
Every day of that year was a living hell. I was 28 years old and suddenly my entire life revolved around the incest I’d experienced as a child. My days were filled with flashbacks, panic attacks, and terror. I lived from therapy session to therapy session, barely hanging on in-between. I couldn’t imagine getting through the pain.
It was at this point that Ellen Bass and I decided to create The Courage to Heal to help women and men who wanted to heal from child sexual abuse. At first, my job was to interview survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I sat with more than a hundred of them, one at a time, as they poured out their stories of humiliation, brutality, and cruelty. I listened to their grief, their anger, their anguish-and their incredible determination to survive. I cried with them. I raged with them. I understood them. Because I was a survivor, too.
I heard countless stories of families that had been torn apart by sexual abuse. People who’d lost their families described feeling cut off, adrift, without an anchor.
I knew what they were feeling because I was deeply alienated from my own mother. At that point in my life, my rule was simple: if you believed me when I talked about the incest, you were in. If you didn’t, you were out. I surrounded myself with people who supported me. I found safety in a culture of my peers.
In 1988, when The Courage to Heal was first published, my relationship with my mother went from bad to worse. Suddenly our family’s dirty laundry was being aired in public, and there was nothing she could do about it. My mother felt humiliated and angry. She desperately wanted me to recant, to say it had never happened. Just as desperately, I wanted her to "break through her denial" and acknowledge what my grandfather had done.
Feelings of betrayal ran deep on both sides. From my point of view, my mother had abandoned me when I needed her the most. From hers, I was not only spreading lies about my grandfather, I was now doing it on national TV.
Our relationship remained at an impasse for years. I desperately wanted to reconcile with her, but I was only willing to do so on my terms. And since it was clear that she would never believe me, I feared we would never speak again.
Fortunately I was wrong. Today, my mother and I are very close. In fact, we’re closer and more loving than we’ve ever been.
My mother has moved to California now. We take walks, go the movies, and eat dinner together. We play Scrabble and I beat her every single time. She teaches silly songs to my kids and takes them out to the theater. We do all the normal things mothers and daughters should be able to do together-and it feels great.
Today, my mother is there for me in good times and in bad, and I am there for her as well. Most remarkable of all, my mother and I feel relaxed with each other. We can be ourselves. We can laugh together. No one’s walking on eggshells anymore, or waiting for the other shoe to drop. And considering where we started, that’s an amazing accomplishment.
The reason my mother and I are close today isn’t because I forgave my grandfather. It isn’t because she decided to believe me. And it’s not because I stopped telling my story.
My mother and I are close today because I discovered the basic principles that make resolution possible, even in the most damaged relationships.
I’d like to share one of the most important of those principles with you now.
No matter how deep the rift with your family, you can achieve one of these four kinds of reconciliation:
- Deep transformative reconciliation in which both people change and both people experience healing and growth in the relationship
- Reconciliation in which one person changes his or her expectations so their perception of the relationship changes, whether or not the other person makes significant changes
- Reconciliation in which core issues stay unresolved, yet both people agree to disagree and come up with ground rules that allow a limited, cordial relationship
- Resolution within yourself when no viable relationship is possible with the other person
No matter what your situation, I believe you can achieve one of these four types of reconciliation, too.
Two Million People Have Achieved Deep Healing With the Loving Help of Laura Davis
For the last fifteen years, working as an author, speaker, and workshop leader, I have helped hundreds of thousands of people, inspiring them to heal and free themselves from the emotional suffering that had plagued them for years.
My first book, The Courage to Heal, sold more than a million copies around the world and has been translated into eleven languages. It-and the three other books I wrote about healing from child sexual abuse-cracked the code for healing from abuse and provided a lifeline for people all over the world. I feel both grateful and honored to have been of such service to other survivors.
"I love your book. Sometimes it’s so real it’s like looking in a mirror and I have to put it down. But I will never again feel that no one understands, because you do."
"The Courage to Heal has touched the deepest part of me, the part that has been walled off and silent for twenty-five years. You have spoken the words for me that I was unable to utter."
"Thank you hardly seems like enough to say. You have changed the direction of my life in a positive way with as much impact as the incest changed my life in a negative way so many years ago."
In the years since The Courage to Heal was published, my own healing path has continued to evolve. After reconciling with my mother, I decided to study what paths others took to reconcile with their estranged families. My research led me to write I Thought We’d Never Speak Again: The Road From Estrangement to Reconciliation, which offers practical advice and inspiration to people dealing with family rifts caused by a wide variety of problems, not just sexual abuse.
Here’s what people are saying about this book:
"Leave it to Laura Davis, who opened a whole generation with The Courage to Heal, to once again give us what we need-a way to come home to each other and ourselves."
–Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones and Thunder and Lightning
"This positive, yet realistic guide to repairing broken relationships is filled with the compelling stories of real people weighing the risks and benefits of re-connecting with estranged loved ones before it is too late. They do so in a remarkable variety of ways, some with cautious trepidation, others with relieved abandon. Laura Davis leads the pack, courageously modeling her own experience of reconciliation with her mother after years of painful separation."
–Esther Giller, President and Director, Sidran Traumatic Stress Foundation
"With prodigious love and wisdom, Laura Davis shows us ways to reconcile with our own fear and pain and rage, if not always with our adversaries."
–David C. Hall, M.D. Family Psychiatrist and Author of Stop Arguing and Start Understanding: Eight Steps to Solving Family Conflicts
"Laura Davis provides crucial guidance for anyone who needs inspiration, courage, and guidance in making peace with troubled relationships. Davis’ powerful stories teach us that by bridging the separations between us, we heal what is fragmented within us."
–Charlotte Sophia Kasl, Ph.D. Author of Women, Sex, and Addiction, and Finding Joy
"As we hunger for authentic expressions of peace and reconciliation, Laura Davis has given us a true gift. She offers pathways for us to let go of pain, bitterness, fear and even hatred. She presents a continuum of reconciliation that goes far beyond simple answers and allows for the individual needs of the involved parties. Davis eloquently presents her message that attaining peace in our lives must be first anchored within our own personal journey of healing."
–Mark Umbreit, Ph.D., Founding Director, Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking, University of Minnesota, School of Social Work
"Davis builds a web of hope that human beings can indeed move on, even when relationships have been painful and very destructive."
–Ron Kraybill, Professor, Conflict Transformation Program, Eastern Mennonite University
"Davis’ stories reveal the complexity and challenges of reconciliation with individuals who have caused great harm. Persons seeking such transformation need boundaries, time, and most of all choices, and Davis shows us that there are multiple doors through which even the most damaged and estranged individuals can find a healing path toward reconciliation."
–Gordon Bazemore, Ph.D., Director, Community Justice Institute, Florida Atlantic University
"With warmth, humor, and sensitivity, Laura Davis teaches us personal and practical truths about healing painful, broken relationships. She does not offer simplistic answers, nor tell us that there is only one way to reconcile."
–Greg D. Richardson, Restorative Justice Institute
If You Are Suffering Over an Estranged Relationship,
You Can Find Peace
In the time since I Thought We’d Never Speak Again was published, I’ve been traveling around the country talking to people about healing and reconciliation. Survivors of sexual abuse, parents estranged from their children over accusations of abuse, and other family members have repeatedly asked me to come up with a resource that would help them resolve family relationships damaged by sexual abuse. So I began interviewing people about the paths they’d taken to find peace with members of their families and inside their own hearts.
I found their words and their stories so compelling and inspiring that I decided to share them directly with you. So I created The Last Frontier: Is Reconciliation Possible After Sexual Abuse? This twelve-tape audio program lets you listen directly to fifteen extraordinary men and women who have found peace-in a truly remarkable variety of ways-with their parents, their siblings, their children, and in some cases, their former perpetrators.
"These stories were amazing. Once I started listening, I couldn’t stop. I had tears streaming down my face and my husband had to drag me away periodically to eat something. When I went back to therapy and told my therapist what I had done, she asked me which story was my favorite. I couldn’t tell her because I loved them all."
-Antoinette, Brooklyn, New York
In The Last Frontier, you will hear stories filled with courage, healing, and real dignity. You will meet:
- Celia Stedman, who learned about her brother’s abuse when he wrote her a self-serving letter four months before her wedding saying he was sorry for abusing her. Celia was furious at his misguided "apology" and didn’t speak to him for eight years. At that point, he apologized again, this time sincerely. Today, with the help of family therapy, Celia and her brother are carefully negotiating a new relationship.
- Jack O’Keefe, an angry, self-destructive New England cop who finally found the courage to tell his parents about the abuse 30 years after it occurred. When they broke down and apologized for not protecting him, his world opened up and everything changed.
- Elizabeth Bryant, who finally got up the nerve to tell her parents about her abuse by a family friend while she was growing up. She expected support and compassion, but instead was viciously attacked. To safeguard her healing, Elizabeth cut ties with her family. She hopes to reconcile with her family one day but, for now, is using her time of estrangement as a safe time to heal and grow. For her, the most important kind of reconciliation is with herself.
- Dante, who refused to talk to his family for years because they denied his abuse and he couldn’t stand the hypocrisy. Now he has made peace with them by "agreeing to disagree.
- Jenny Young, who grew up in a traditional Korean-American family and found she couldn’t directly confront her parents about her father’s abuse. Jenny healed under their roof for 12 years and never once broached the issue with them. The reconciliation she successfully reached regarding her parents took place without their awareness or involvement.
- Molly Fisk, who gradually rebuilt her relationship with her mother after seven years of estrangement and then cared for her mother during her battle with ovarian cancer. Molly says the greatest gift of those final months with her mother is "knowing I can’t predict the future."
- Pauline Szumska, who began making peace with her family after ten years of estrangement not by using words, but by sewing a sampler of her mother’s favorite psalm. She put her love and her intention to reconcile into every stitch she took, and her gift opened the door for a renewed relationship with her whole family.
- Miriam Gladys, who was the mother of five young children in the 1950s. Trapped in an alcoholic marriage, she took her anger out on her children, often terrorizing them. Years later, after he husband died, she learned that he had sexually abused the kids. Miriam has made amends to each of her children and has successfully reconciled with four out of the five. She has dedicated her life to helping other Jewish families face up to the reality of abuse. Listen to an excerpt of Miriam’s story. Here she and her daughter Shelley are talking about how they balance dealing with the past with building a new future.
- Jane McGregor, whose son abused his sister, spent years dealing with her daughter’s rage and her son’s denial. She prayed that her two children would one day speak again. She got her wish when Mike finally owned up to what he did and deeply apologized to Stacy. In this story, Jane, Mike and Stacy each describe their family’s healing journey from their own unique point of view.
- Staci Haines, who has spent a lifetime learning to deal with her father, a manipulative man who never stopped trying to get the best of her. Despite the urging of many people to forgive her father or to write him off completely, Staci has persisted in finding her own path to wholeness.
- The Magaña/DeLaCruz family, who was torn apart when it came out that Jose had sexually abused both of his daughters. Jose went to jail and the whole family started therapy. A year later, under close supervision, Jose moved back in. In this interview, twelve years later, the girls are grown and the whole family discusses the risks and benefits of reunification.
- Kathleen Ryan, who found a way to make peace with parents who were active members of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation.
- Cynthia Desrosiers, who sued the pedophile priest who raped her when she was five-and won. Now an activist for clergy abuse survivors, Cynthia has struggled for years to reconcile her own relationship to the church and to God.
- Paul Marshall,who made peace with his father in the last days of his father’s life. He came to know his father in a whole new way as he sat and watched his father’s cremation. Listen to an excerpt of Paul’s story. Here he is talking about his final visit with his father.
- Donna Jenson, a survivor, and Wayne Bowers, a recovering perpetrator, who participated in a weekend retreat that brought together survivors and recovering perpetrators to discuss ways to stop child sexual abuse.
To accompany these powerful interviews, I’ve created a 200-page Workbook to help you apply the wisdom in these stories to the dilemmas you are facing in your own life. As you listen to the stories and complete the exercises in your Workbook, you will discover whether or not you want to seek reconciliation and learn what you need to do if you choose to proceed.
"I thought I’d never see my son again because the gulf between us was just too great. But just last week, I saw my grandchildren for the first time. Thank you for giving me a glimpse of the future before it’s too late."
– Anita, Winnipeg, Canada
Are You Going To Tell Me I Have to Forgive and Forget?
The Last Frontier will never tell you what you "should" do. I don’t believe there is one answer that fits everyone. The ultimate goal of reconciliation isn’t necessarily rebuilding the relationship-it’s achieving a greater sense of peace and clarity within yourself.
"Success" is determined by your deepening sense of acceptance of your circumstances, rather than by the degree of face-to-face reconciliation you achieve. In some relationships, deep healing is possible. Other times, a partial or limited reconciliation can be considered a great success. Still other times, walking away and grieving for the relationship is yourbest possible solution.
My core message is that there are many roads to peace and many types of reconciliation. Throughout The Last Frontier, I stress the importance of personal choice. Here’s what I say about it in the introduction to the audio program.
"Listening to these tapes does not commit you to do anything. Rather, you are opening your mind to possibilities. You will determine for yourself whether these possibilities are right for you. I’m not going to give you six easy steps to mend broken family relationships. I am not going to tell you what you should do. Rather, I have created these tapes as an opportunity for reflection and meditation."
"My hope is that you will be inspired to explore your own situation, your own needs, your own desires, and your own heart. What you do with the information is up to you. Whether or not you attempt reconciliation is a personal decision, one you should make clearly, carefully, and consciously."
I have the utmost respect for your ability to figure out the solution that makes the most sense in your family. Whether it’s trying to mend the relationship or letting go and moving on is entirely up to you. I created The Last Frontier to help you find your own answers.
"When my therapist suggested I listen to The Last Frontier, I worried that you’d tell me I had to forgive my father. Once I realized that you weren’t going to do that, I started listening. I was immediately captivated by the courage and beauty of each person you interviewed. Thanks for making these amazing stories available to me. I feel like I have companions on my journey, helping me figure out what’s right for me."
-Nate, London, England
Reconciliation Isn’t About Who’s Right and Who’s Wrong – It’s About Connection
What makes The Last Frontier such a unique and valuable resource?
- The Last Frontier extends the healing process into uncharted territory. No other resource on healing from sexual abuse has dealt with resolving family relationships years after the initial disclosure. The assumption in most books on healing from abuse is that people are either with you or against you-if people believe you, they are" in" and if they don’t, they’re "out."
Until now, there has been no discussion of the gray areas-when you still love your brother despite the things he did to you, or when you long to talk to your mother even though she’s never acknowledged the truth. What should you do when your father is dying and you have to decide whether to see him one last time? When your daughter is getting married and both you and your son-whom you haven’t seen in six years-want to go the wedding? When you wake up one morning, after a decade of swearing that you’d never speak to your sister again, and find your heart starting to open?
There has been nowhere to turn for answers to these questions. No one has created a definitive resource for family members wondering how to repair relationships damaged by sexual abuse. The Last Frontier is that resource. It cracks open a new world of possibilities for resolving relationships in families where abuse has occurred.
- The Last Frontier has been lovingly created by a guide you can trust. Since The Courage to Heal was published in 1988, I have been deeply committed to supporting survivors of sexual abuse. I have traveled around the country, talking to thousands of survivors and therapists. I have received tens of thousands of letters and emails from survivors and family members all over the world.
I have also attended conferences, taught workshops, given lectures, and continued to deepen my understanding of child sexual abuse and the healing process. I have championed the cause of survivors publicly and been a willing spokesperson for survivors who didn’t have a voice.
I have personally put myself on the line time and again because I am passionate about ending child sexual abuse. Having been through the difficult healing process myself, I understand the trauma of abuse and the ups and downs of recovery. I know this territory very well. And I have been there for survivors for many, many years.
- The Last Frontier has respect and caring woven into every page. I recognize the courage and determination with which survivors approach their lives and their recovery. I also understand their vulnerability and their deep need to be in charge of their destiny. It is with the utmost respect for this need that I created The Last Frontier.
The Last Frontier never tells you what you "should" do or what you "have to" do. Rather, it presents a wide range of open-ended possibilities, leaving complete control and freedom of choice in your hands.
- The Last Frontier will help you find greater peace and resolution with your family. Although not every relationship can be reconciled and not every relationship should be, I believe that everyone can find greater peace and resolution in their relationships. Although I can’t predict what will happen in your family-each situation is unique and what works for one person won’t be right for someone else-I guarantee that listening to The Last Frontier will help you feel more peaceful and resolved.
"The Last Frontier taught me that there aren’t just two options when it comes to dealing with my family-slamming the door shut or flinging it open. There are myriad pathways in between. Thanks for opening my eyes to a wide range of possibilities I never considered before."
-Jacqueline, Midland, Texas
Here are some real-life results from people who have listened to The Last Frontier and used its Workbook.
A survivor and her parents who had been bitterly at odds for a decade-and on the verge of suing each other-attended a cousin’s wedding together peacefully.
Two sisters who were pitted against each other as children reached out to one another as adults and began building a whole new relationship.
A mother and daughter who’d been fighting about whether or not the abuse occurred learned to "agree to disagree" and began exploring the common ground they still had between them.
A father who had abused his daughters and denied it for years found the courage to approach them and finally admit what he had done.
A man who’d been abused by his brother, who was still a bully, learned about the importance of setting clear limits and began saying "no" to harmful interactions.
Parents who were sure they’d been falsely accused found a strategy for beginning a dialogue with their son, despite the fact that they still disagree with him about what happened in the past.
A woman who’d written off her parents as dead reaffirmed that she didn’t want them in her life and created a ritual that helped her grieve more fully for the parents she will never have.
A man abused by his priest made peace with the man who raped him and the institution that failed him-then went on to define his own relationship with God.
Let my readers tell you for themselves:
"Three hours into listening to The Last Frontier, I picked up the phone and called my sister for the first time in twelve years. I was shaking and I was scared, but I did it anyway. It felt so good to hear her voice! Once she got over her shock, I realized she was just as scared to talk to me as I was to talk to her. We stayed on the phone for two hours that night and two hours the next. Thanks to The Last Frontier, I have a sister again."
– Ayana, Lake Oswego, New York
"Conflicts over sexual abuse have torn my family apart for more than a decade. Last month, my wife and I-and our daughters-were able to attend my son’s wedding in relative peace. Thanks for teaching us to ‘agree to disagree.’ It has been a great relief to know there doesn’t always have to be a war."
– Harry, San Diego, California
"For years, I carried my father’s imprint like a heavy weight on my soul. The Last Frontier helped me let go of that weight. Now instead of bitterness and rancor, I feel a profound sense of freedom. I can move on now. Thank you for giving me the rest of my life."
-Jim, Lolo, Montana
Here’s what you’ll receive when you order The Last Frontier:
- Twelve audio tapes containing 15 in-depth interviews with women and men who have resolved family relationships that had been torn apart by sexual abuse
- A 200-page Workbook that will teach you to apply the concepts, ideas, and practical advice in these stories to your own life
The Last Frontier will provide you with hours of inspirational stories, hundreds of ideas for achieving peace and healing, an honest portrait of what the reconciliation process is like, and all the tools you need for deciding what’s right for you in your particular situation.
"The moment I started listening to The Last Frontier, an old, rusty door inside me began to open. Possibilities I had kept buried for decades started to surface. After twenty years of thinking I would never speak to my parents again, I have visited them twice and we are starting to build a new relationship. This is something I never thought would happen. Thank you for teaching me to never say "never."
–Robin, Stowe, Vermont
The Last Frontier includes:
12 cassette tapes in a hardback case and a 200 page spiral-bound Workbook. The price is $147 U.S., but I am offering this version for $50 off as a thank you to those of you who respond from this online offer. This brings your cost down to $97 U.S.
If you’d like to order the Last Frontier, please email Laura directly.
Wishing you continued courage and healing,