Linda M. Milligan, Educator
Look Beyond the Smile is a poignant narrative that chronicles the author’s life as a survivor of child abuse and the many warning signs that went undetected by the numerous adults with whom she had contact on a daily basis. Readers will experience moments of tears, shock, laughter, and anger as they navigate through the pages of this intense piece, which provides gentle moments that are overshadowed by unthinkable acts of verbal, physical, and emotional abuse that the author encounters. Careened into adult situations and having to make adult decisions at an early age, the author bypasses childhood and the carefree innocence it brings. She states, “It was my job to keep the ribbons washed and ironed, socks washed, underclothes clean, and and shoes polished. In the early days, Momma selected our clothes, but soon it became my responsibility to see to it that all of the children’s clothes were ready” (Chapter 6).
Sanders’ writing style is simplistic yet revealing with a candor that permeates each page. Look Beyond the Smile is a must read for those in academia and law enforcement, as well as laymen, thus serving as a valuable addition to existing literature on the topic of child abuse. Her purpose for sharing an almost unbearable journey is to bring awareness, educate, and to give voice to the voiceless victims of abuse. This work is a gateway to developing a deeper understanding of the signs and issues surrounding victims of abuse, and it equips readers with tips and resources for taking action to protect our most precious commodity—our children.
While it is raw and gripping at times, Sanders’ work clearly demonstrates how the human spirit is capable of surviving the grimmest of situations. It serves as her springboard to personal triumph but also charges each of us with the responsibility to be vigilant and mindful that what is seen on the faces of children may not accurately reflect their true lives. In essence, we, as caretakers, educators, and protectors must be willing to look beyond the smiles and rescue those who cannot save themselves.
George T Williams, EdD
National Certified Counselor, Licensed Psychologist (MN, CA)
Thank you very much for the opportunity to review your autobiographical book entitled, Look Beyond the Smile, to be published by ENHEART Publishing Company in Charlotte, NC that is expected to be available for sale in print and electronic formats by summer, 2013. It is especially an honor to give a review of your book since you are one of the esteemed graduates of The Citadel’s master’s degree program in Counselor Education with a concentration in Secondary Guidance and Counseling. You are also known as a well-respected site supervisor for our former Citadel School Counseling fieldwork trainees for many years; a former member of The Citadel’s School Counseling Community Advisory Board who was an active supporter of our Citadel School Counseling programs initial CACREP “(Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs) accreditation that was successful in achieving national recognition; an active member, leader, and recipient of several state professional counseling association distinguished awards from Tri-County Counseling Association (TCCA) and the South Carolina Counseling Association (SCCA); a professional colleague; and a friend who frequently smiles with a heart of compassion, love, integrity, and generosity and is always willing to help others!
Let me begin my review by sharing the context of my professional background regarding the topic of the “ugly beast of abuse.” I have been employed as a professional educator for over 35 years and have assumed numerous positions including practicing as a certified elementary and secondary school counselor, college counselor, counselor educator, counselor supervisor, and/or psychologist in the states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota, Louisiana, California, and South Carolina. I am also a national certified counselor and a licensed psychologist in the states of Minnesota and California and have worked part-time in private practice doing outpatient and inpatient work in psychiatric treatment facilities. I taught a required curriculum course for master’s degree seeking candidates in programs of marriage and family therapy and school counseling on child abuse for 15 years at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) prior to my faculty appointment at The Citadel 15+ years ago. While at The Citadel, I have served as both a full-time faculty member and Coordinator of the Counselor Education Programs that includes programs in elementary and secondary school counseling and more recently a graduate certificate program in Student Affairs and a MEd degree program in Counselor Education with a concentration in Student Affairs and College Counseling. Over the years, I have given numerous presentations at professional conferences on the topic of abuse. Since 2006, I have served as a facilitator for Darkness to Light (D2L) to provide Stewards of Children training (“a grassroots national non-profit organization based in Charleston, SC that seeks to protect children from sexual abuse by placing responsibility squarely on adult shoulders” by educating adults with 7 steps “to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse”). Suffice it to say, I have had much exposure to the topic of the “ugly beast of abuse”. I am very thankful and appreciative of you for your courageousness to go public as a remarkable accomplished professional educator, professional school counselor and guidance leader, and well respected citizen and human being to be transparent sharing the details of the unimaginable “ugly beast of abuse” you personally endured.
I was very moved emotionally with tears several times while reading your story revealed in the book, appropriately entitled, Look Beyond the Smile. For the 15 years I have had the pleasure to know you as a professional colleague, leader in our profession, and getting to know you more as a friend. I never imagined behind the beautiful, radiant smile everyone knows you by, that you would have experienced such traumatic abuse. You are truly a miraculous survivor who has overcome unimaginable abuse to become the successful, remarkable person you are today.
I appreciated your writing style that engages the reader to visualize the scenarios you vividly described while chronicling the incidents of blatant child abuse you personally experienced as a child from about the age of five to 14 that were too painful to write about. It’s amazing to realize how much healing must have occurred for you over these past 25 years to enable you to accomplish a major personal goal in writing this book. I believe your book has incredible potential for helping to conquer the evil, “ugly beast of abuse” in this world.
I’m shifting focus in my personalized writing style to you here to facilitate content that may be more helpful to ENHEART Publishing to use my review, in whole or part in any manner of choosing to promote and market the book. . . . Look Beyond the Smile is an incredible autobiographic life story of Mattie P. Sanders who painstakingly chronicled the beating incidents of victimization of Blatant Child Abuse she endured as a young child from about the age of five to 14 that were too painful to write about and share with others. She has courageously written this book that has required more than 25 years of unending healing from exorbitant scars of severe amounts of physical, emotional, educational, medical, and spiritual abuse and childhood neglect she experienced from those people in her life identified as most significant adults, family members, professional educators, health care providers, and governmental agencies. She also shares how she miraculously “dodged the bullets” of sexual abuse victimization in the midst of all the other forms of abuse she endured. As a gifted writer, the author has written an insightful and timeless book that is a worthy resource for every adult who comes in contact with children. The graphic language resounding in the author’s mind and soul will also penetrate the hearts, minds, and souls of those who read this book. This book belongs on the bookshelves of anyone who is a professional educator, professional school guidance counselor, professional medical or mental health care worker, child care agency worker, governmental employee, law enforcement personnel, politicians, and anyone who attends college or graduate school. This book is also “a must read” for the layperson who must be the eyes, ears, and voice for others (especially children) who have experienced or witnessed abuse by victimization or observation of other children, adults, or spouses being abused. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in better understanding what can happen to children who are not properly supervised or protected in this world.
The reader of this book will gain insight for better understanding the complex dynamics for perpetuating abuse as significantly influenced by several environmental factors relating to acts of commission and omission. The author clearly articulates how abuse affects the victim, families, communities, and the world in which we live. The author provides a wealth of wisdom for enlightening the reader about the complexity of abuse. End of chapter headings, “LOOK At What You Need to Know” highlight valuable key teaching points on identifying different types of abuse what will educate even seasoned professionals. Valuable reference resources for every state in the United States for seeking help are also included in the book. The author appropriately encourages the reader to make conscious choices of action whenever having any suspiciousness of abuse occurring while addressing when, how, and who needs to do it. This professional and personal, thought-provoking book is very well written and includes valuable content for anyone desiring to learn more about the complexity of the “ugly beast of abuse” in the world.
Even for people who have not been exposed to the abuse of people, it is hoped that together we as genuine, caring, compassionate, empathic, human beings can make a difference in this world to conquer this pandemic problem by taking personal and professional responsibility to conquer this evil, “ugly beast of abuse’ that surrounds us everywhere in this country and around the world.
National Certified Counselor, Licensed Psychologist (MN, CA)
Professor and Coordinator, Division of Counselor Education Programs
School of Education
The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina