Denial: A Memoir of Terror

Denial: A Memoir of Terror

by Jessica Stern



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061626654
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/22/2010
Pages: 300
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Jessica Stern is a research professor at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies and a Fellow at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard’s School of Public Health. She served on the Clinton administration’s National Security Council Staff. She is the author of Denial: A Memoir of Terror; Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill (a New York Times Notable Book of the Year); and The Ultimate Terrorists. 

What People are Saying About This

Howard Gardner

“Jessica Stern has written a remarkable book, unlike any that I’ve read. This deeply personal and often painful reflection documents the costs of personal, familial, and community silence as well as the liberating effects of truthful testimony.”

Louise Richardson

“A memorable, powerful and deeply courageous book, DENIAL is also a riveting read... With devastating honesty [Stern] explores the impact of trauma on victims and those close to them, and the costs of denial for both.”

Naomi Wolf

“One of the most important books I have read in a decade….Brave, life changing and gripping as a thriller...A tour de force.”

Eliza Griswold

“[Denial] will allow people into parts of themselves they didn’t ven knew they had. Parts full of rage, of terror, of pride in their own detachment... For anyone who has lived at proximity to violence, it is one of the most necessary accounts of our time.”

Susanna Moore

“[A] harrowing memoir of a girl whom trauma has taught to distrust herself and who learns to live with the idea of her appeal to compassion and forgiveness, rather than a condemnation of the destructive impulses that haunt each of us.”

Edward R. Shapiro

“An unflinchingly courageous self-examination... riveting and brilliantly told story... The book will be illuminating for victims and survivors of trauma, those who work or live with them, family members with generational histories of trauma, and for those who care about how our histories shape our lives.”

Bessel van der Kolk

“A masterpiece. A remarkable human journey from confusion and doubt to clarity and perspective.”

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Denial: A Memoir of Terror 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
skstiles612 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
In 1973 15 year old Jessica Stern and her 14 year old sister encounter a man in their step-mother's house. he is armed with a gun. He rapes them both threatening to kill them if they don't comply or if they say anthing. Fast forward several years and we find Jessica is now a successful expert on terrorists and terrorism. She finds that the things that should terrify her don't and simple things do. She makes a decision to find out why. It is during this exploration she goes back to the files on her rape. The case is re-opened and she faces many people she has trusted in her life to help her find the answers. She discovers things about her father that may explain why he did not return immediately from a trip to Europe after finding out about his daughters. He completed his business and then returned. For me this was a tough book to read. In her chapter called Denial she talks about being victimized over and over by those who are skeptical about events. I don't believe people willingly do this but it causes further damage none the less. The victim is then force to react in a way where they shut down emotions, pretend events never happened or they themselves re-victimize themselves by the choices they make. I think anyone who has ever suffered any type of trauma, whether it is the loss of a family member, a form of abuse or whatever should read this book. I thought of my cousins daughter who was involved in a terrible accident with her family. Her baby was killed, the oldest suffered permanent brain damage. Her husband wanted her to just wanted her to get over the accident and move on. They weren't his children. His ex-wife didn't understand "what the big-deal was the kid was dead just move on", yet told her what she would have done if her kids had been in the car and been injured. Her ex-husband stole money the community was raising for the oldest kids hospital bills. One person after another took the opportunity to kick her when she was down and then when she finally fell apart and became suicidal they said they couldn't understand what happened. We all find ways to deal with our trauma. Some of us try to handle it ourselves or seek counseling. Others take it out on themselves or those around. Maybe if this book had been around they would have handled things differently.
jennsbookshelves on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Jessica Stern has been studying the causes of violence for the past two decades. She often wondered why she could study such a horrid subject without being affected in some way. Perhaps it is due to that one event that forever changed her life, the night of October 1, 1973.Jessica was just fifteen years old, her sister just a year younger, when they were raped. When they reported it to the police they weren¿t taken seriously. The police believed they knew their attacker and were too afraid or ashamed to admit to it."The story turned out to be much bigger than the rape of two girls. It seemed as if the entire community was in denial. The police had not properly investigated the crime. They gave up quickly¿rape at gunpoint was unimaginable in Concord, Massachusetts in 1973. Denial, I would learn, is immensely seductive. It is irresistible for bystanders who want to get on with their lives. In the moment of terror, denial and dissociation are life-preserving for the victim¿in this case, the denial of our community resulted in many additional child rapes-at least forty-four-and the suicide of at least one of the victims."All these years later, Jessica does what the police didn¿t do at the time, she reads the police reports, investigates her own unsolved rape and uncovers years of buried trauma and denial. With the help of a local police Lieutenant, Jessica was able to discover the identity of her rapist, a man who raped at least forty-four girls in Massachusetts in a three year time-frame in the early 1970s. Unfortunately, this man, Brian Beat, killed himself years before Jessica began her investigationDenial: A Memoir of Terror is a very intimate look at one victim¿s search for knowledge, for truth. Jessica doesn¿t hold anything back, each detail of that horrendous crime is clearly laid out. It is for this reason I say it¿s difficult to enjoy reading a book on this topic, but I definitely think I gained a lot by reading it. As a criminal justice/psych major, I too was interested in learning more about what causes crime and violence. I learned a lot about the criminal but never very much about the victim. It was interesting to read about how one event, granted one very big life-altering event, could forever change the life of one young girl. The way she behaved, the occupation she chose, all were in response to this attack. I was infuriated to learn just how many rapes could have been prevented had the police investigated more, had the town wiped away the cover of denial.I wouldn¿t recommend this book to everyone due to its subject matter. However, I do think it is an important book to read. It¿s not only a book about a rape, but one about self-discovery and awareness. If I had to mention one thing I didn¿t like it would have to be the repetitiveness. Some scenes, thoughts, etc. were relayed over and over again. Perhaps this was in an attempt to drive that particular thought or action home, but instead I found myself skimming these parts, skipping ahead in the book. That said, this only occurred a few times, it certainly didn¿t take away from the impact this book had on me. Highly recommended.
knittingmomof3 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
From My Blog...Denial: A Memoir of Terror by Jessica Stern is a deeply personal, raw, and profound look at the effects trauma has on an individual, the lengths one's brain will go to, to protect itself, and the damages stemming from denial. As my reader's know, I am a fan of memoirs, it is one of my most favourite genres and I have read my fair share of memoirs and this is the first memoir that is so honestly fresh, raw and written in a flawed manner that one gets the impression the reader is personally hearing Jessica talk about her life.In 1973 two sisters, 15-year-old Jessica and 14-year-old Sara were raped at gunpoint by an unknown assailant, the search for the rapist was dropped after 4 months. Each sister responded differently and Jessica believed it helped to make her focused and strong, skills that make her excel at her job investigating terrorists. Jessica learns many of her behaviours are most likely results of post-traumatic stress disorder, at the very least trauma. In 1996, Jessica was contacted by Lt. Macone to notify her he was reopening the case and could use her help if she was able. Stern writes about the process and her desire to interrogate her rapist, she wants to understand her rapist. In the process she learns the strong father she idolised was a terrorised child in Nazi Germany who has lived with his fears his whole life, even after escaping Germany.The further she investigates the more she remembers and the more she learns about the processes of disassociation as well as how to begin to feel again. Denial is a work of love, healing, and tremendous strength and courage. Stern brings to the public what it is like first hand to be a victim and how one's life can be forever changed. The writing is at times cold and detached as one may expect and it is through Stern's honest account that her raw writing style makes Denial the most astonishingly profound memoir I have read to date. Without reservation I recommend Denial by Jessica Stern to any adult reader
kraaivrouw on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Although it is written in sparse readable prose and is highly intelligent and insightful, this is neither a pleasant nor a brutal read. Ms. Stern, an expert in terrorism, uncovers the source of her own terror - her childhood rape and its consequences. With the help of police, FBI contacts, and friends, Ms. Stern dares to delve into the life of her rapist - that unknown person who so affected her life. In doing so she is forced to consider how wide-ranging the after effects, how much of what she is good at and what she chooses to research is related to these effects, and ultimately to begin to confront her own anger and damage.The thing I liked most about this book was its rawness. Ms. Stern is at the very beginning of understanding and facing what happened and is unafraid to display the raw anger that churns inside of her. I respected her refusal to be a stereotypical victim - trembling and cowed, always broken never to be repaired. Instead she takes hold of the event and its inherent complications, learns as much as she can, and honestly displays her emotions - rage, sadness, fear, bewilderment, compassion, and more rage. So often women deny themselves the full range of emotions, squishing themselves into the accepted. Ms. Stern isn't interested in the acceptable.As Faulkner said, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." This is a terrible thing to face head on. All the happenings in our lives, even the most horrible, are still right there, just under the surface, waiting to re-emerge. Ms. Stern accomplishes this with grace and an eye toward facing it all down, no matter how frightening.There are places in this book that are strangely detached in that dissociative way so familiar to anyone who has experienced trauma. I can think of no better way to express the way PTSD moves through the brain and manifests itself to the external world.Even better is Ms. Stern's acknowledgment of this dissociative feeling and the way it made it possible for her to do the work she has done - interviewing thousands of terrorists in dangerous places all over the world to better understand what drives them. Her willingness to explore the ways she has coped and turned certain aspects of PTSD to her professional advantage is particularly insightful and brave. We should learn from bad things, but so often the positive learnings are never expressed.Altogether a remarkable book and worthwhile read.
jaidahsmommy on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Jessica Stern is a specialist on terrorism and author of several books. This book, however, is her personal story of her rape and it's aftermath.First off, sexual abuse is a horrific crime and I am in no way trying to judge the author for her response to what happened to her. Everyone reacts to trauma differently in the best way they can. That being said, I got the feeling at first that the author still had not actually sat down and really dealt with what had happened to her. She kept saying "I will feel about this later" but later never came. She is raw in her emotion, or lack of, that is is hard to put yourself in her position and try to feel what she is feeling. It is like she is saying the words but she does not connect with them. I was relieved to read that by the end of the book she is starting to open up and is finally beginning to understand what has happened to her and is making steps to heal.My biggest issue with this book has nothing to do with writing style or anything about her skills. It is her father, and the need to please him. Even though she took notes when talking to her father and only repeated what he himself had said, he makes her go back and change things because he does not like how he sounds. Yet even though she doesn't change the dialogue, she describes hiking trips as if they were wonderful, when in previous chapters she has expressed her hatred for them. She makes a point to let us know that yes she loves her father, and she makes it often as if she is the one who needs reassuring. The author also comes across has having a "I'm better than you" feeling when she describes being a victim. She refuses to see herself as a victim, even though she is in fact a victim and dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. Many times she says how repulsed she is with people who see themselves as victims and have a hard time getting on with their lives when that is in fact what she herself is going through. Denial is definitely the appropriate title for this book. That being said, I still found this to be an interesting read. It was fascinating to watch the author go from complete denial about what happened to her to finally accepting that she may need help to deal and move on. I hope this books helps others recognize the signs of post traumatic stress disorder and get the help they need as well.
Voracious_Reader on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Stern's book is a biography of sorts. It details her history as a victim of various types of sexual trauma and her ability to deny or disassociate from that trauma and work as an interviewer of terrorists around the world. I wouldn't say it was a fun read but it was an interesting one. I can't think of another book to which I would compare it. It was very straightforward about horrendous acts of abuse and rape suffered by the author, but, even in its straightforwardness, there is further demonstration of her PTSD and disassociation from the events themselves. In some ways, in order to have any sense of clarity one would have to have the ability to distance themselves from horrible events; she has the ability in spades. She does make clear, though, that even the ability to deny events is not without consequence.
Cyraen More than 1 year ago
Jessica Stern delivers a naked and frank psychological tour of her personal experience with terror and how power is derived or surrendered in this captivating memoir. Well-written and critically examined, she explores her own rape at the age of fifteen, and then pursues understanding of the man who committed the heinous act. The beauty of the book isn't in the prose so much as the authentic, uncensored honesty of her thoughts and experiences as she discovers more about the man who committed the crime. This exploration of her assailant reveals just how prevalent terror crimes are in our first world country, and how it is more comfortable for so many to deny they ever happened. Referencing experience in interrogating terrorists as a living, she takes the reader through her own personal discovery of the horrible things she endured as a young woman, and how those encounters had a lasting impact on her life. The most captivating part is just how honest she is about her feelings. Sometimes you want to protect her because she makes herself so vulnerable. Sometimes you want to detest her for not being more sympathetic, and yet you cannot help but learn from her as she shows how power is taken over and over again as long as a person chooses to remain a victim. This book was tough to read at times, embarrassing at others, and completely compelling. I would recommend this book to any woman, especially if she has suffered terror at the hands of a man.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Phurba More than 1 year ago
Although this book is fundamentally the account of one woman's brave attempt to revisit and make sense out of an utterly senseless act of violence that had been committed against her, her sister and many other women over three decades ago, it also offers much more. It is in this light, viewing her memoir as multiple interwoven stories, that the reader should approach this book; and by doing so the brilliance of the message will come through. People hurt by trauma, either on the battlefield or in the bedroom, recover (or try to recover) in various ways. Some appear fine on the outside, yet still suffer silently. With her expertise in terrorism (and the prior hard work and persistence of a policeman), Stern reviews the police report and sets off to collect her own data (as she "loves to bathe" in data) by interviewing acquaintances, friends and a victim of her rapist as well as certain members of her own family. Will it help her to understand the rapist's motivation? His upbringing? Perhaps as a child he had been sexually abused by a Catholic priest? Or so Stern wonders. Some of Stern's observations and feelings of anger are blunt and intense, but such feelings show her honesty and respect for the reader who does not want a filtered reality. But there are limits to Stern's openness; feelings of vulnerability still prevent her from disclosing certain aspects of her identity, and understandably so. There are several surprising twists in these stories of Stern's journey. For example, a voice from the past appears in the form of a letter, a voice that is witness to a childhood event of Stern's many years before the rape. Could the same person who had unknowingly contributed to the death of Stern's mother also have played a negative role in Stern's development? Could love and anger, sex and violation, all be mixed in one? After having read this book I found it at a local Barnes & Noble store in their "True Crime" section. I think that is poor choice of location. "True Psychology" would have been a better location as this book is truly an attempt to help individuals still dealing with their own demons of trauma.
Heart2Heart More than 1 year ago
Alone in an unlocked house in a safe neighborhood in the suburban town of Concord, Massachusetts, two obedient, good girls, Jessica Stern, fifteen, and her sister, fourteen, were raped on the night of October 1 1973. When they reported the crime, the police were skeptical. Following the example of her family, Stern - who lost her mother at the age of three - denied her pain and kept striving to achieve. 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 thought she disassociated from the trauma altogether, until a request took her back to that night more than thirty years earlier. The world-class expert on terrorism and post-traumatic stress disorder began her own investigation, with the help of a devoted police lieutenant, to find the truth about her rapist, the town of Concord, her own family, and her own mind. The result is Denial, a candid and deeply intimate look at a life, a trauma, and its aftermath. (excerpt from back cover). My Review: This is a difficult book to read without getting emotionally involved with Jessica's story of the traumatic rape her and her sister experienced in 1973. The details are real and vivid as she uncovers the hidden triggers in her own life that take her back to a time she disconnected from herself in hopes of putting all the pieces back together. Jessica is working with Paul, a police lieutenant that reopens this case based on evidence he discovers that leads to 44 more rapes that occurred in the same area by what they now believe was a serial rapist. The story takes a turn when Jessica herself learns the story of from her father when questioning him for the book why he didn't come home from Norway after learning of their rape like he should have. She never questions her families role in learning of her rape, whether its to push it under the table and move forward in life or why the police even doubt that the rape occurs after reading the full account of the crime. We learn that her father grew up in Germany at the time of the Nazi regime and even then was threatened and beaten as a child for being a Jew, so you think that alone would make him sensitive to the needs of both of his daughters during the rape. Yet we have to remember that he doubts whether it really happens even after he reads the full report. This is a really powerful memoir and shows how some people can deal with a traumatic event and still lead seemingly normal lives on the outside while turmoils boils under the surface. It also details for you what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is really like for someone living with it while appearing normal on the outside to the rest of the world around them. I received Denial, A Memoir of Terror by Jessica Stern, compliments of TLC Book Tours and once again am amazed at the courage it took her to investigate her own rape and subsequent stories surrounding the people involved in her life at the time. If you would like more information about this book, the author and where to purchase a copy, click on the link below: