Scott Brown's Abuse

What Women Really Think
Feb. 17 2011 10:22 AM

Scott Brown's Abuse

The news that Scott Brown, the new senator from Massachusetts, was molested by a camp counselor is getting a lot of attention. It’s a sickening revelation, of course. But what was more painful for me to listen to and read about is that he was regularly beaten and abused by his stepfathers. Yes stepfathers, plural.  What goes on in a mother’s mind when she brings men into her home – when she marries more than one of them! – who assault her son? How many times did young Scott have to try to come "rescue" her, only to be beaten himself, before she got a clue that her job was to protect her son, not vice versa.  I don’t know what kind of relationship Brown has with his mother. I hope she’s abjectly apologized to him. But often such parents think of themselves as victims, too, and never do confront their own culpability.

The encouraging thing from these revelations is to look at who Scott Brown has become. His life was unraveling when he was a kid, then an arrest for shop-lifting helped him realize he didn’t want to continue on the path he was on. Whatever pain he still carries from this childhood, he has made a happy personal life, and a successful professional one. This is a really important message for kids enduring equally destructive childhoods: A painful start doesn’t determine your whole life.

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Emily Yoffe is a regular Slate contributor. She writes the Dear Prudence column.