Campaign Confidential

By Eileen McNamara | Boston Magazine |

GOVERNOR DEVAL PATRICK HAS DESCRIBED Senator Scott Brown’s candor about the beatings and molestation he suffered as a boy as “very brave.” Senator John Kerry has said Brown’s revelations in his new memoir, Against All Odds, could help those who have endured similar abuse as children.

[sidebar]Of course, Patrick and Kerry were at something of a disadvantage when they offered their fervent reviews, not having actually read the book. But buyer beware: Brown’s memoir might be a voyeur’s delight, but it has no wisdom to impart. No counsel to offer battered women besides making better choices. No guidance to offer children trapped in violent households besides toughing it out. No example to offer sexual abuse victims besides getting on with their lives.

Make no mistake: There can be only compassion for a boy abandoned by his father, kicked around by brutish stepdads, shipped out to resentful relatives by a beleaguered mother, set upon by neighborhood bullies, and molested by a camp counselor. But the bromides Brown peddles as the lessons to be learned—self-reliance and human resilience—undermine the hard-won recognition that violence and sexual abuse are not private traumas to be overcome by force of will; they are pressing public health emergencies that demand a communal (dare I say governmental?) response.

The stories we tell about our lives are always reconstructions, shaped by the life we live now, by the face we want to show to the world.

Scott Brown wants us to see a brave boy, the protector of his battered mother. “Every time he knocked me away, I’d rush at him again, low and fast, like a crazed lion,” he writes of valiantly battling an abusive stepfather. “He was beating the crap out of me, but I knew I couldn’t stop, and with every blow I grabbed and held on.” Brown was six.

Scott Brown wants us to see a fearless soul, undaunted by the size or the strength of his adversary. “As he closed his eyes, I raised the rock high over my head, drove it down into his face and head, and took off,” he writes of an attempted sexual assault in the Malden woods by a knife-wielding teenager. “I heard him howl in pain but I never looked back.” When the bloodied 13-year-old later turned up on his doorstep, Brown did not back down. “I stared at him and refused to turn my eyes away. I wanted him to be as afraid of me as I was of him.” Brown was seven and a half.

Scott Brown wants us to see a defiant spirit, unwilling to be a victim. “And I looked him in the eye and screamed, ‘No. Get away from me. No, no, no,’” he writes of being fondled by a twentysomething counselor in the bathroom of a Cape Cod summer camp. “I yanked my hands away, and there on the institutional-tile floor, trapped by a sink, a toilet, and a mirror, I stood my ground. I tried to push my way by him, he stopped me, and I yelled, ‘No,’ screaming at the top of my lungs. Up until that moment, I don’t think he had imagined anything other than my giving in.” Brown was 10.

  • Karen

    Thank you for pointing out the hypocrisy of Senator Brown

  • Wilma

    Being from same hometown I know of dozens of outright lies,exaggerations, & omissions.Hope he gets exposed before he gets elected again.

  • Hillary

    Scott Brown is “the inspirational hero of his own life” as Eileen McNamara bitterly wrote. This book isn’t meant to be read by children, so they won’t feel inadequate that they cannot rise above the abuse they endured. It is a story of survival and perseverance of a boy who became and man and a leader. Because Eileen McNamara is a democratic fanatic akin to a religious fanatic, there is only one vision, and never a compassionate one, of a republican. Blinded by her convictions and obvious outrage at being an American and living in the United States where we are free to write books. Even books that may not help everyone. That one person it could help though is very happy to read Scott Brown’s words. Bravo Senator Brown!

  • Chris

    Thank you for writing this article, and for pointing out that it takes far more than a heroic nature to overcome the lasting legacy of child abuse.

  • Mark

    This article is an absolute travesty. How dare you comment on how Scott Brown has dealt with an unspeakable crime committed against him in his youth. Ms McNamara you should be ashamed of yourself.