AT AGE THIRTEEN, I was sexually assaulted by a highly respected member of the community. My boyhood experience is all too common. The only unusual part is that I decided to write a book about it. When I first tried writing this story in the 1980s, I quickly discovered how hard it was to face the truth of childhood sexual trauma. Our culture said boys were supposed to be tough, able to protect ourselves. If we were abused, supposedly we weren’t hurt by it. The entire issue was so taboo that neither institutions employing pedophiles nor law enforcement agencies would confront it. Millions of men remained muzzled by shame and a society-wide culture of denial.

Since then, a succession of headline-grabbing scandals — the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, Penn State— have riveted public attention and galvanized law enforcement. Men have stepped forward and demanded justice. And yet, with a few notable exceptions, the lack of memoirs by men stands in stark contrast to the many moving and transformative accounts by women. I think it’s incredibly important to pierce the silence and tell these painful stories. Until we adults remove our blinders, we can’t hope to protect our children from predators hiding in plain sight.

But stories by themselves are not enough. As I can attest, it can take decades for victims of childhood sexual abuse to overcome the fear, shame, and trauma to seek justice—the average age of disclosure is 52. We must make sure that justice is not denied by cruel and outmoded statutes of limitations. And youth-serving organizations should put the Gold Standard in place to protect the children in their care and prevent abuse. I find it appalling that, a half-century after I was assaulted, justice still remains out of reach for so many, and the safety of kids is too often sacrificed. I am dedicating myself and this book to helping change that.

Stephen Mills, Author

Stephen Mills is the author of Chosen: A Memoir of Stolen Boyhood, which won a 2022 National Jewish Book Award. He is also the coauthor of Next of Kin: My Conversations with Chimpanzees, a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. Since 1983, he has advised and written for an array of public interest organizations in the fields of human rights and environmental protection. Stephen is honored to serve as an Ambassador for CHILD USA, the leading nonprofit think tank fighting for the civil rights of children. He lives in California with his wife, Susan.


Click on each photo to see the caption in the lower-left corner.

Get Updates

Sign up for news about CHOSEN and author events.