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Shattered By The Darkness: Powerful book by a humble man on a mission to prevent what happened to him from happening to other children.


Gregory Williams, PhD, will help change the world by taking this book into medical schools and teaching physicians and nurses about the root cause of most adult illness: childhood trauma.

I just read this book in one sitting, save one hot tea refill. I could not stop reading it. Even though there were some passages that evoked anxiety, I couldn’t stop reading it, as I so wanted to learn more about this remarkable man and how he earned a PhD, had a normal family life, and earned the respect and confidence of physicians and other healthcare professionals.

This book is an amazing read. Greg’s writing is vivid. That he self-published the book is testament to his willingness to do whatever it takes to help himself and others heal. I wondered about his dad. What prompted this man to abuse a small child daily? Sometimes twice a day? To try to destroy an adolescent? To try to control and bend a young man to the breaking point? I wonder what pain his father had, or what from his past would compel such behavior?

Greg’s compassion toward his dying father gives insight into his ability to heal, to somehow stay in the moment and heal. In the book, he relates a long, healing talk with his father that ended with a statement of forgiveness, about which Greg says, "Immediately when I said those words, something happened inside my mind and body. There was a sense of letting a huge weight off my back." 

Though I have heard them again and again, I remain stunned by the statistics of the number of children who are sexually abused: one in six boys; one in four girls. And we wonder why there is so much depression, suicide, violence, domestic abuse.

I hope getting this book into the light, and Greg using his leadership position at Baylor College of Medicine, where he is an administrator, will raise awareness among doctors, nurses, therapists, social workers, and teachers of the need to learn and teach all professions about the devastating consequences of childhood trauma. That Greg is still alive with an adverse childhood experiences score of 8, is remarkable. Childhood trauma kills and makes people want to die. Greg helps get this point across by sharing about his heart surgery and challenges with suicidality, obsessive-compulsive disorder, PTSD, sleeplessness, and perfectionism.

This is a powerful book by a humble man willing to be of service to prevent what happened to him from being repeated. I hope his audience is wide, loyal, accepting, and encouraging. He will change the world by taking this book into medical schools and teaching physicians and nurses about the root cause of most adult illness: childhood trauma. He understands and makes clear that while the sexual abuse was the most dramatic part of the trauma, that the secrecy, isolation, neglect, verbal, and other physical abuse was deadly as well. I deeply admire and respect this work, and wish Greg and his family success and peace on their healing journey. Greg truly is helping to prevent and heal childhood trauma, and to build resilience.

Note: A blog about Gregory Williams' sharing his story with physicians was posted on ACEs Connections in September, and is accessible here.

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Wow, Greg's story sounds so powerful, raw and real. I am grateful for his bravery and willingness to go through these extra steps to make sure others can learn from his story which will then serve as a springboard for knowledge and action.  

In a past role, I had the opportunity to meet 1:1 with first year FM residents for an hour. The goal was to share local public health data and to help make sense of the health disparities (or maybe it provide context) as they learned to meet the needs of the most complex families in our community. The ACEs study provided the context that helped them understand the story behind the person sitting in their exam room. Over a few years, I starting meeting 1:1 with the 2nd year and then 3rd year residents - to expand the conversation and eventually talk more in-depth about how ACEs impacted their patients and their work as physicians.  Often we would role play the most complex situations - to look at consider how ACEs might fit in, what resources might be useful and to walk through barriers to care - so that serving the most vulnerable families would provide a sense of accomplishment and not overwhelm. 

Later, by chance, I came across a small study that looked at ACE scores among physicians - here is an excerpt: 

“We were surprised at the prevalence of early life adversity encountered by the physicians in this study,” said MacDonald. “Through PACE, the physicians were able to develop insight into how the past can influence the present and discuss strategies to become more compassionate and respectful caregivers.”

Link to article:

Thank you again, Greg for sharing your experiences and for improving everyone's understanding of ACEs across the life course. I hope your book sparks a conversation from coast to coast!

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