“13:24 is a fantastic read.”

Games Fiends

Fiction though it may be, author M. Dolon Hickmon has absolutely captured the terror, the betrayal, the humiliation even of being abused by the very people a child should be able to intrinsically trust.”

“Love, hope, betrayal, murder – 13:24 has all the standard components of a great murder mystery, pulling you into several concurrent story lines as you puzzle out how all of the pieces will fit together in the end. And it does that oh, so well. But, as with all good books, 13:24 has a twist – and it’s that twist that truly pushes it over the edge into a fantastic read.

Josh is a heavy metal superstar. As the front man to popular band Rehoboam, he inspires adulation from scores of young fans for his intense and often deeply emotional lyrics. Fame and fortune aside, Josh is a deeply troubled young man, haunted by memories of a past that couldn’t be any more different from the life he lives now.

Chris…well, Chris is a serial killer, in the technical sense of the word. As the book begins, the young teenagers sets off on a killing spree that is chilling in its intensity. Chris is a motivated young man, and he is leaving a swath of death in his wake. Why? The media blames Rehoboam – it’s all that devil’s music the kid was listening to, spurring him to unforgivable actions….”

- Read the entire review of 13:24 – A Story of Faith and Obsession by M. Dolon Hickmon

Novel Puts Into Words My Break With Childhood Faith

ExChristian.net

13:24 exposes much of what it means to grow up in an abusive fundamentalist cult”

I recently finished 13:24, the powerful new spiritual thriller from author M. Dolon Hickmon. Although it is a work of fiction, this story about the impacts of religiously motivated child abuse hit close to home and spoke volumes to me.

In 13:24, murder and scandal erupt during a controversial rock band’s weekend visit to a small town. When police link the band’s lead singer, Josh, to a homicidal teenaged fan, the resulting drama causes Josh to have flashbacks of his own abusive childhood. In a series of potently emotional scenes, Josh relives his early years with his minister father, who has a lot in common with real life fundamentalists like James Dobson and Michael Pearl.

In places, it felt like Josh was explaining my childhood, with better words than I would have come up with. For instance, after a suicide attempt, Josh tells a friend who has come to visit him at the hospital: “I don’t have a clue what I am passionate about, because my father stripped away every shred of independence. It was never enough to follow orders. He had to pry me open, to make sure I didn’t have any feelings or motivations that he hadn’t given me permission to have.”

Josh’s struggle for identity was especially affecting to me, because after years of physical, verbal, and emotional abuse, this past December I finally broke free from my family….

- Read the entire review of 13:24 – A Story of Faith and Obsession by M. Dolon Hickmon

For Sect in Idaho, Faith Healing Becomes Faith Killing

Rubens_saturn_square_2The group “Followers of Christ” defends its religious right to let children die.

According to the Bible, King Solomon built a temple to the pagan god Molek on a peak many meters above the shrine he’d built for Abraham’s God. There, children were sacrificed, while drums beat to keep outsiders from hearing their screams. The hill became known as the Mount of Corruption.

That something analogous could exist in modern America seems impossible, but Linda Martin has been sounding the alarm over what she says are disturbing religious practices among a small sect in Idaho. Late last year, journalists took notice; what their investigations uncovered was so shocking that by the start of this year state lawmakers put together a bill meant to eliminate faith-healing exemptions in Idaho’s child abuse laws.

At the center of the debate is a group that calls itself the Followers of Christ. Martin grew up in their faith and is well acquainted with their practices. She says she’s related to a majority of the group’s members….

Read the rest of the article by M Dolon Hickmon, author of 13:24 – A Story of Faith and Obsession

Reposted (with comments) at No Longer Quivering.

INTERVIEW: VICTIMS’- AND SURVIVORS’ PERSPECTIVE

Homeschoolers AnonymousApril 14, 2014 – R.L. Stollar is a community coordinator for Homeschoolers Anonymous, a project of Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out (HARO).  Members of HA are interested in sharing their experiences of growing up in the conservative, Christian homeschooling subculture. HA does not stand against homeschooling as an educational method; rather, the group is interested in standing up for those who have been hurt by oppressive groups and ways of thinking. Their message for those who feel victimized by such cultures, is “There is a way to break free and be yourself.”

In addition to posting his own review of 13:24-A Story of Faith and Obsession on the Homeschoolers Anonymous website, Mr. Stollar conducted a thoughtful and informative e-mail interview with M Dolon Hickmon, the author of 13:24.

*****

HA: Thank you for being willing to do this interview. Can you tell us a bit about your personal background?

MDH: My parents were ‘saved’ in an Independent Baptist church when I was between three and four years old. It was a high-control group, with a family model based on male dominance. My earliest memories are of beatings and of witnessing domestic violence. Our pastor’s solution to spouse- and child abuse was to call for perfect obedience, so that the family head would have no reason to be provoked. Fortunately my mother kept trying until she found a secular psychologist who helped convince our abuser to leave that church.

HA: 13:24 is an intense, brutal, and deeply personal — yet vastly accurate — read. What inspired you to write it?

MDH: The easiest way to answer that is with a comparison: Thirty years ago, child molesters were pictured as violent rapists, who attacked unwary strangers. Victims were expected to make an immediate outcry. Meanwhile, accusations against coaches, parents, or priests were met with disbelief, or dismissed as bizarre flukes. Today, we know that society had those percentages backwards; it was actually stranger attacks that were a vanishing minority. But it took decades for sexual abuse survivors to convince schools, churches, police officers, prosecutors and judges that their policies were based on bad assumptions.

Today, on the subject of physical abuse, society is where we were on sexual abuse fifty years ago. Our entire system of thought is based on a set of almost clownish stereotypes. 13:24 exposes our false assumptions. It is based on real crimes, on real science, and on real survivors’ experiences. But what makes it disturbing is that when people are exposed to the truth, they immediately realize that our entire culture is off in the woods, when it comes to dealing with this problem. We are fighting imaginary boogeymen, while the actual perpetrators walk free among us.

HA: There are so many different ways you could have written something powerful about your personal experiences and the impressive amount of research you have done of the subject of religiously-motivated physical abuse. What attracted you to a novel as your method of delivery?

MDH: Outside of therapy groups, discussions of physical abuse tend to be dominated by the opinions of people who have not experienced it. These people are often kindhearted and well intentioned, but their understanding of the problem is shallow. It’s hard to address their mistaken beliefs, because they hold the majority and agree with one another. The novel is unique because we remember what we’ve read as if it were a personal experience. I think this is the key—for the majority to have a way of adding the victims’- and survivors’ perspective to their pool of shared experience.

HA: It has been noted — by people who grew up in cultures similar to the ones you describe in your book — how uncannily accurate your descriptions are of certain thought-patterns and sociopolitical realities within conservative American evangelical worlds. You also go into great detail about police and social work. Can you describe what your research process was and how long it took?

MDH: Often, it was as easy as Googling a phrase that I recalled my abuser had said. I also consulted with quite a few authorities, including a psychologist and trauma researcher, a retired vice detective, an active Postal Inspector, a working dominatrix, a police dog trainer, and others.

HA: Even though you tell the story through words in a novel, you really paint a vivid picture of Rehoboam’s music — lyrics, rhythm, melodies, even what their live performances feel and sound like. Why did you place such an emphasis on music?

MDH: In several instances, readers see an instigating childhood experience, and then discover through Josh’s lyrics how his adult mind has processed that event. However, the music is also part of a much bigger social dilemma: When a teenager commits murder, society is quick to consider to the influence of music, television or videogames; but when innumerable parents discipline their children to death, people are reluctant to examine the claims that are being made in the parenting advice that all of them read. I don’t know the answer, but I found the double-standard interesting to consider.

HA: 13:24 ends on an emotionally somber note: neither prescriptively hopeful, nor necessarily hopeless. Without giving anything away, can you talk about why you chose to end on the particular emotional note you did?

MDH: People who overcome child abuse are remarkable, because they have accomplished something that is both difficult and rare. I think the media belittles that accomplishment by making it seem as if every child abuse victim overcomes and is stronger for that experience, in the end. The reality is that there are a lot of unhappy endings. Children die, and those who survive often wind up addicted, or in prison; they make messes of their marriages, and do regrettable things to their own kids. I think 13:24 offers readers a balanced ending, which reflects the range of responses that are normal for human beings.

HA: In your discussion of religiously-motivated physical abuse, both in the novel and elsewhere, you hold nothing back in pointing to how pervasive the relevant problems are: existing not only private schools and home schools, but also public schools. What are some facts you think are important for homeschool advocates in particular to know about parallel problems in private and public schools? And how can or should we work together to address these problems?

When it comes to sexual abuse, we now realize that it is not enough for adults to be watchful and protective; children must be taught to protect themselves, because when abuse occurs, it is usually only the victim and the perpetrator in the room. We need a similar revolution in our thinking about physical abuse. You can’t leave it to parents, because abusers are never going to willingly give victims advice on how to escape. So whether you are a pastor, a neighbor, or family member, the obligation is for all adults to appropriately discuss physical abuse with the children they come in contact with. Kids should know that discipline does not leave children injured or scarred, or feeling worthless or terrified.

HA: One of my favorite sections in 13:24 was the “group therapy” scene were characters talk about the real physiological impacts trauma can have on the body, particularly the brain. Do you think there’s any connection between religious fundamentalists’ fear of taking mental health issues seriously and their unwillingness to talk about child abuse?

MDH: The church is certainly not the only institution that is failing to fully address those two issues. But given that corporal punishment is no longer recommended by any group of secular experts, I think the responsibility is now on pastors to be proactive in educating very young church members about the difference between discipline that is constructive, and physical abuse, which only contributes to mental health problems, substance abuse and rebellion.

HA: What’s next for you? Are you writing another novel?

MDH: I am in the pre-planning stages for a second novel. This one will also deal with abuse and spiritual themes.

HA: Thank you once again for doing this interview. Any closing thoughts?

MDH: I would like to ask everyone to consider how your own conversations about child discipline might seem to a child who is being physically abused. Are you explaining correction so that a five- or nine year old abuse victim can understand when she needs help? Do your words convey that abuse is unacceptable and that other adults will believe and protect? Because if you are not teaching kids to protect themselves from physical abuse, who will?

 

INTERVIEW: MENTAL ILLNESS AND THE LOCAL CHURCH

MDOLONHICKMON600x800Seattle Washington, March 18, 2014 – M Dolon Hickmon went on the air with Doug Bursch of AM 820, to discuss a research study published in volume 12(2) of the Journal of Religion, Disability & Health.

Written by Matthew S. Stanford PhD and Kandace R McAlister, the study is entitled “Perceptions of Serious Mental Illness in the Local Church”.  Participants were self-identified, mentally-ill Christians who responded to an online survey. Results included the following observations:

* 41% reported that someone at their church had suggested that they did not have a mental illness, even though a mental health professional had diagnosed them with one.

*28.2% reported that someone suggested that they stop taking psychiatric medication.

*36.5% reported that they had been told their mental illness was a result of personal sin.

*34.1% reported that they had been told that their mental illness was a result of demonic involvement.

During the second segment of the radio program (you can listen below) M Dolon Hickmon and host Doug Bursch examined the biological mechanisms of trauma to understand why counseling based on the sin and forgiveness model fails to give relief to many child abuse survivors.

(Please note that the audio has been edited for brevity)

 

Why Are Christian Fundamentalist Parents Allowed to Deny Their Kids Basic Literacy?

By failing to educate their kids, these parents potentially squander a child’s entire lifetime of future earnings and achievements.
by M. Dolon Hickmon

Review of 13:24 by Kirkus Reviews

Excerpted from the full review, available at kirkusreviews.com

“A strange and effective debut novel about the powerful dynamics of father-son relationships and the casual violence of amoral subcultures.”

“Hickmon’s taut, gripping fiction debut journeys into a world of subversive rock-and-roll, dark perversions and deep emotional scars. . . . Hickmon weaves these separate plots together with an unforced ease, as when he effectively portrays Rehoboam’s struggling early years in well-deployed flashbacks. The narrative’s lean, unadorned prose becomes intensely involving as the plot hastens to its climax and Chris becomes linked in the press with the heavy-metal band he loves so much.”