Q – “Should I write about abuse I endured as a child if the abuser is still living?”

Q – “Should I write about abuse I endured as a child if the abuser is still living?”

Q – 

Angela,

I was abused by two family members for several years. I am thinking of writing a book about my recovery to help others who have also been abused. I would tell my personal story to illustrate this subject.

One of the abusers is still living. I have no contact with that person. He is a sociopath. I would not name him in any book I would write, but I would have to refer to him as my relative.  Could this have legal consequences? Would you advise a different strategy?


A –

The abuser could (and, if he’s a true sociopath, probably would) sue. Not naming him can’t protect you from that. Anyone who knows you personally likely knows who he is. You can bet news of your book will get back to him in one way or another. You also need to be concerned about your safety. True sociopaths can resort to violent crimes to protect their past secrets.

Ways to lessen your chances of being discovered as the author are:

1. Anonymize and fictionalize the entire story (state on the copyright page that it’s fiction based on actual events). Change names, dates, locations, and descriptions of events. You can do all of this without changing the core message you want to convey to other victims (your readers).

2. Use a pseudonym (of course).

3. Never tell anyone but your publisher that you are the actual author of the book. If you tell people, word will get around and, even if you used a pseudonym and called it fiction, he could still sue. That is a risk you do NOT want to take.

I know this is discouraging but even one such lawsuit could bankrupt you in legal fees – even if you win in the end. And, the emotional damage you would be forced endure by interacting with your abuser all these years later could be devastating for you and for your family.

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN AFRAID OF THE LEGAL CONSEQUENCES OF WRITING ABOUT YOUR PAST? PLEASE SHARE YOUR ADVICE IN THE COMMENTS BOX BELOW. 

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3 Responses to "Q – “Should I write about abuse I endured as a child if the abuser is still living?”"

  1. Joyce Simpson  February 21, 2019 at 1:08 pm

    What if the abuser died about 3 years ago? Can you still be sued by his family?

    Reply
    • By Angela Hoy - Publisher of WritersWeekly.com  February 21, 2019 at 1:47 pm

      You would need to consult with an attorney, especially if you mention his friends or family members. There was a widely covered case (“Running with Scissors”) where an author wrote about the family members of his deceased therapist and they ended up suing him. (https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/east/2007/08/31/83134.htm) Also, if the individual’s name is associated with a well-known brand, that brand could sue the author. Again, any author considering writing about something that is difficult to prove should consult with an attorney. If a lot of time has gone by, and if there is no evidence of the allegations, it could turn into a he said/she said situation.
      -Angela Hoy
      WritersWeekly.com
      BookLocker.com

      Reply
  2. jedidiah manowitz  February 13, 2019 at 7:44 pm

    write yes. if it helps you recover. but publish no.

    Reply

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