Former Hoboken resident Dawn Eden has had a wild career trajectory, from being a passionate rock-and-roll writer, to winning an award for a funny headline in the New York Post, to eventually studying theology and finding salvation in the arms of the saints.
Eden, a former staff writer for the Hudson Reporter, was a well-known chronicler of pop music starting in the mid-1980s. She wrote for Salon and Billboard, interviewing luminaries such as Harry Nilsson, Brian Wilson, Del Shannon, and Leslie Gore. For a time, she wrote for the New York Post, and won a journalism award for her headline about a city worker injured in a bathroom at work: “Hurt in the line of doody.”
But in 1999, a born-again experience changed her life. Recovered memories of a tragic childhood period turned her from rock and rollers to the rock of ages: Dawn Eden is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. She wrote a book about how her insecurities in her younger years led her to a life of promiscuous sex, until she realized it wasn’t her salvation. Her memoir, the “Thrill of the Chaste,” was published in 2006.
After the book came out, Eden increased her studies in theology, and now she has a new offering for readers.
In her latest book, “My Peace I Give You, Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints,” Eden relates a little told story about how some of the Catholic saints overcame abuse, and can help others with a traumatic past.
“The book combines personal reflection with stories about the saints that address the ability to overcome sexual abuse and the ability of saints to intervene on behalf of people engaged in these personal and often emotionally charged struggles,” Eden said.
The book offers an insider’s view of the psychological battles survivors of sexual abuse often deal with. It addresses the self-deception of our sexually bold surface selves. Though abusers are always responsible for their own actions, survivors often put up fronts that attract more abusers in later life.
Rebel without a cause
“I longed to be creative,” Eden writes. “I believed creativity was defined by rebellion. For that reason, I started to be a rebel, wearing the most revealing clothes I could find, peppering my conversation with references to sex, and priding myself on being sexually aggressive … Looking back, I see that my rebel persona was a lie—a lie I created in an effort to protect myself from the lies imprinted upon my psyche by my abusers.”
Eden said that through her provocative dress, language, and behavior, she announced that “I was master of my own sexuality. Beneath the posturing, however, remained the soul of a little girl desperate to be told she was valued not for what she did, but for who she was … I thought I could control how men used me.”
Eden’s recovery involved recognizing the various things that triggered sexual responses and resisting the inevitable outcomes.
Eden said recovery from sexual abuse is not about forgetting that it happened but finding nuggets of good memory to focus on instead of bad ones. She said a person doesn’t have to and perhaps should not relive the painful memories.
“However, it does require the willingness to enter into the past so that we might disentangle traumatic events from events that were not traumatic,” she writes. “When we do this, we reclaim the hidden treasures that are rightfully ours.”
At some point in the 1990s, Eden converted from Judiasm to Christianity.
“After entering the Catholic Church, I let go of my false self,” Eden said. “Instead, I learned to live with the fact of my vulnerability, behaving with respect for my own dignity and that of others.”
Forgiving the abuser is essential to healing. But, Eden writes, “Forgiveness is not within our own power. It is in God’s power.”
Forgiveness does not mean forgoing the demands of justice. “Evildoers should never be rewarded for their actions,” she writes.
It was through the intervention of saints, who shared her struggles—holy people like Thomas Aquinas also suffered sexual abuse—that Eden was able to save herself. Saints didn’t start out perfect, Eden said. “It would be more descriptive to say they have been perfected … They have been purified.”
“In every childhood, even the most troubled, there are moments of joy,” Eden writes. “The journey of healing, to be effective, must include what spiritual theologians call a `purification of memory.’”
Two things all saints have in common, according to Eden. “They all suffered, and they all experience joy in the midst of suffering through their union with Christ.”
Eden continued to struggle even after she found faith, and recalls in the book how she grappled with her own sexuality while among mostly celibate people in a Catholic seminary.
The road to Damascus
Conversion was not an easy transition.
Eden recalled battles with radical feminists and acting out her anger, which spilled over into a fairly well publicized incident during her stint with the Post.
Among her copyediting duties, she said, was to “notify the editors of any obvious facts or errors of omission.”
In 2005, she changed added language to a story about in vitro fertilization that exposed her anti-choice sympathies. She expected to be fired. While waiting for the ax to fall, she prayed to the patron saint of journalists to save her job. The inability of the saint to do so did not deter Eden’s faith in the intersession of saints.
Still, Eden said, it is important to understand that God does not need help from the saints or anyone else.
“Any answer to a prayer comes from God,” she said. “But he also listens to the prayers of saints in heaven, and God can choose to let the saints intercede for us.”
Eden writes, “Mary’s fortitude came not from forgetting her past suffering, but from remembering it in a new way.”
Eden’s book can be purchased at Amazon. Read more about her at her blog, dawneden.blogspot.com.