Newsfeeds have been overwhelmed with stories of abuse.
Whether it is the phenomenon of men in power, like Harvey Weinstein or the almost-impossible-to-fathom stories of abuse by the Turpins of California, Americans are increasingly aware of our behavior toward one another. Just how many people become victims of abuse? It is not known. Most victims of abuse, especially children, do not come forward. Estimates from the U.S. Department of Justice range from 1.8 million juveniles to 20 percent of all young girls in this country alone. Jerry Miller, a local actor and former Methodist minister, did not want to be an estimate or a statisticbut, rather, an individual with a story.
In his latest book, The Day the Rain Came Down: Abuse, Addicted, Alive. The Stories of Gay Identical Twins, co-authored by his twin James, Miller shared decades of abuse, both sexual and emotional, at the hands of parents and siblings over the course of several decades. When asked why he decided to write the book, Miller told Windy City Times, "My twin brought it up. He thought it was important that we told our story and I suggested that we write it together." Miller continued, "It was about sharing the pain. I wanted others who may also be victims to know that they are not alone. I wanted them to know that there is hope." The book took the twins more than a year to write.
The Day the Rain Came Down begins with stories of early sexual abuse at the hands of the twins' father. Each twin has his own part of the book to tell his story. "We decided to separate the book the same wayby addiction or abuse," said Miller. According to Miller, the sexual abuse began when the twins were 11 and continued through puberty. Miller also included candid recounting of both sexual abuse perpetrated by the eldest brother as well as an incestuous relationship that began between the Miller twins and did not end until they were both nearing 18. The brothers seemed in it together from the beginning. "When my twin started to fool around with other boys in elementary school and junior high, naturally the other kids just attributed his tendencies to me so I also became an object of bullying," said Miller.
In addition to the abuse, there are stories of addictionto alcohol, drugs, gambling and sex. According to Darkness to Light, a child-abuse awareness group, children who are victims of sexual and emotional abuse are 2.6 times more likely than their peers to suffer from a host of addictions, poor academic performance, teenage pregnancy and criminal activity. The Miller twins' stories intersect in all manner of addiction. However, Jerry began his road to recovery a full decade before his brother, James. "I'm not sure why," said Miller. "Part of it could have been my involvement with the church. Part of it could just be that I sought help sooner and had more support. We just don't know. But we are now both recovering and this is not about judging our behaviors or our recovery but is about telling the story."
Miller originally wanted to be an actor, but his father forbade the notion since "actors were gay." Part of Miller's story focuses on the role that the creative and performing arts played in his life. After Miller's recovery but before his 50th birthday, he wrote out his bucket list. He wanted a degree in acting, to appear in a commercial and become a member of the Screen Actors' Guild. Shortly after his 50th birthday, Miller indeed accomplished all of that: "I made the list and worked hard for it. While in graduate school, I received several awards for my acting and found myself in a rather renowned graduate repertory theatre in Milwaukee." His own success, he said, "is a sign that recovery is possible, loving relationships are possible."
The Day the Rain Came Down is not only a book about abuse and addiction, but also about recovery. "Anger is natural. In a case like this, anger should be expected. But this book is also about forgiveness," said Miller. Eventually, Miller was able to make peace with his mother prior to her death. In the book itself, Miller includes a candid letter to his father who pre-deceased his mother by several decades. "I've finally been able to make peace with my past and with father. My twin, James, is not there yet," said Miller.
Miller had doubts about whether he would publish these stories or not. "Victims of abuse and addicts have stigmas. It's not fair but that is a reality we have to deal with. I was nervous that if I shared my story, others might judge me for it." Miller's story mirrors in many ways that of abuse victims who only now are coming out. Whether one is discussing the alleged victims of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore or victims of Weinstein in Los Angeles, silence is prevalent. According to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services, more than 60 percent of all victims say nothing. Miller wanted to share his story as an example. "I did not want others to suffer the same way my twin and I did," he said. "I wanted to offer a light in the darkness."
Those interested in this book may purchase it during a book signing scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 18, 4-6 p.m., at the Epworth United Methodist Church, 5253 N. Kenmore Ave. The book is also available on Amazon, through special order at Unabridged Books and through the author himself at email@example.com .