"I have listened and I have been quiet all my life. But now I will speak."
One of the world's foremost experts on terrorism and post-traumatic stress disorder investigates her own unsolved adolescent sexual assault at the hands of a serial rapist, and in so doing, examines the horrors of trauma and denial.
Alone in an unlocked house in a safe neighborhood in the suburban town of Concord, Massachusetts, two good, obedient girls, Jessica Stern, fifteen, and her sister, fourteen, were raped on the night of October 1, 1973. The girls had just come back from ballet lessons and were doing their homework when a strange man armed with a gun entered their home. Afterward, when they reported the crime, the police were skeptical.
The rapist was never caught. For over thirty years, Stern denied the pain and the trauma of the assault. Following the example of her family, Sternwho lost her mother at the age of three, and whose father was a Holocaust survivorfocused on her work instead of her terror. She became a world-class expert on terrorism, a lauded academic and writer who interviewed terrorists around the globe. But while her career took off, her success hinged on her symptoms. After her ordeal she could not feel fear in normally frightening situations.
Stern believed she'd disassociated from the trauma altogether, until a devoted police lieutenant reopened the sisters' rape case and brought her back to that harrowing night more than three decades past. With the help of the lieutenant, Stern began her own investigationbringing to bear all her skills as a researcherto uncover the truth about the town of Concord, her family, and her own mind. The result is Denial, a candid, courageous, and ultimately hopeful look at a trauma and its aftermath.
According to Stern, the curse of rapewhich she strips to its rootis that it teaches you to feel less and less of the world around you. She has trained herself to be a sharp-eyed observer, capable of registering the subtlest gestures, the slightest shifts in emotion, but when it comes to confronting her own demons, she found herself saying, "I will feel about this later." Being "stern and hard" is so natural to her by now that a more human reactionwriting this incandescently honest book, for instance"takes an act of will."