From Matthew on January 21, 2014:
The sheer amount of research that has gone into this work alone is more than many will achieve in a lifetime, coupled with the incredible depth and attention to detail in the reporting, this book is clearly a work of exceptional effort.
That says nothing though of the emotional effect of the book. I sincerely thought that the chapters covering sexual abuse would be the most painful of the book (and they were difficult to read on a level that fiction rarely is); however, it wasn’t until the stories around medical neglect that I wept. Perhaps it is the all too frequent appearance of child sexual abuse cases in the media or that the subject is regularly discussed in Humanist/Atheist publications and websites that I read, but I have developed some sort of immunity to hearing about these cases – in some way I knew what to expect from those chapters and was prepared to read them.
I try to remain stoic in a typically English fashion but the story of Natali Mudd was one that moved me to tears. I have a daughter who is nearly 2 now and maybe it is the still new paternal instinct that made me so readily able to imagine that poor 4 year old Natali so in need of help. The images that flooded my thoughts as I read your words were so utterly devastating. Stoicism has its place but it is for these stories that I reserve my tears.
I have tried to imagine what you must have gone through in writing this book. The copious volume of reading, interviews, research and documenting is staggering not to mention the actual task of writing the book! Coupled with the emotional impact the content of the material must have had and perhaps still does, this book’s existence is a testament to your strength and determination.
In short, thank you for going to the extraordinary lengths you have.
From Yeaperson on December 25, 2013:
I’m familiar with this reality from my work, but here is a careful, documenting of this possible reality. Religious leaders must read this book, so they are alerted to this reality and motivated to intervene for the sake of children.
From Terry on September 17, 2013:
It was very eye-opening for me.
From Paula on September 17, 2013:
I found your research amazing. I appreciate how you share the information, but do not become inflammatory or hostile or express contempt. You report. “Breaking Their Will” has been needed for a long time.
From Bookworm on September 6, 2013:
The amount of research the author put into this book made it a thorough and unbiased read. For anyone who has suffered abuse at the hands of religion, I’d recommend this book.
From TeD on August 25, 2013:
Despite the extreme topic and risk of controversy, Heimlich shows deft skill in addressing the idea without polemic or diatribe style. In fact the issue of whether religion is simply the medium by which perpetrators offend, or whether religion is a risk factor is considered first of all, by comparing not only the stats but the policies, publicity and exemplar legal cases of some serious abuse. . . . As a book focused on American culture, I think this is a must read for all its citizens (especially if Heimlich’s stat that 80% of U.S. citizens have some level of religiosity) for those outside the state’s borders, this is still an important book about where raising children can go wrong. For a final word, this book in no way slams religion, suggests atheism, science or secular practice is the proper way of doing things. In fact the book espouses as many positives of religion especially for children. It is simply an objective look at the potential negative effects of religion on child care.
From Belqis on August 17, 2013:
This book is not an indictment of Christianity or any other religion, but rather a warning that certain religious environments (fearful, isolated, blindly authoritarian) can foster cruelty to children, and that we have to speak up for these victims. Freedom of religion does not mean freedom to abuse or neglect the children in your care. The book seems carefully balanced: well-researched and well-documented and, as I’ve already pointed out, points out the ways children can benefit growing up in religious homes.
From Alexander on July 21, 2013:
Janet Heimlich has written a remarkable book in “Breaking Their Will.” As I read it, time and time again I had to put it aside and collect myself. This is because it is a book of incredible power, throwing light upon the serious problems of religious child abuse.
Whether it is parents letting their children die of simple bowel obstructions because their faith required the rejection of modern medicine or the molestation of children committed by Catholic priests, Heimlich takes the reader on an unflinching investigation into it all. Her book is well-written, well-researched, fascinating, and eye-opening. It is also an absolute must-read! Anyone who cares about the welfare of children has to read this incredible book. Thank you to Janet Heimlich for this brave piece of journalism.
From Charlton on June 23, 2013:
It’s long past time we stopped using religion to justify child abuse. This book explains how fundamentalists justify their assault on children and what to do about it.
From Capt John on June 10, 2013:
Heimlich’s task, while easy, is holy work, and she attacks it doggedly, with evidence and a barely controlled tone, which one might have expected to explode into derision, hyperbole, and righteous anger at any second. For that control, –which I personally could not have managed– she gets full marks.
From Paul on June 6, 2013:
Thank you for writing this. It makes me feel like I’m not alone and that there are others out there who understand what I’ve been through. You have no idea how much this book means to me.
From Dwayne on May 26, 2013:
This is simply the best book on religious abuse and the total fundamentalist mindset since Father Leo Booth’s When God Becomes A Drug and Alan Peshkin’s God’s Choice: the total world of a fundamentalist Christian school.
From Carmen on April 29, 2013:
I’m a survivor of religious child abuse, and I read your book last summer. It was excellent! Very triggering and difficult to read for me, but I was grateful that you were telling these stories.
From Paul on April 25, 2013:
Congratulations on your scholarly, well-researched book. . . . Our politicians do not understand the plight of kids in this trap. Your message should be more widely known.
From J. Geisheker on March 22, 2013:
Heimlich’s research and anecdotes proved highly informative and reminded me, as a lawyer who defends children, that U.S. courts and prosecutors are far too obliging to those parents who claim that “God told them” to chastise, punish, mutilate, starve, isolate, humiliate, denigrate — and even kill their own children.
From Angel on February 23, 2013:
Thank you for bringing this hardly known type of child abuse to light.
From J. Wagner on March 12, 2013:
As a child who’s will was broken by a religious cult, I appreciated this book.
From Barrel on January 20, 2013:
Overall, this book has been cathartic for me and allowed me the comfort of knowing that what I experienced as a child wasn’t ok, even if [it] was sanctioned by the pious and the Bible. I felt as though I could’ve been reading my own story in so many of the stories in the physical and emotional abuse chapters. I imagine there are thousands of children and adults who have, and are currently, suffering, who can find healing and solidarity, as well as a plan for raising the next generation without religious maltreatment.
From Maria on January 20, 2013:
Janet Heimlich, in Breaking Their Will, goes to great lengths not to rail against religion, but to establish the beliefs and scenarios that create dangerous environments for children. While religion can be extremely beneficial for some, and MOST of the time religion and spirituality are very good for children, there are some theological beliefs that are dangerous and make for terrifying and abusive environments.
. . .
Overall, this book has been cathartic for me and allowed me the comfort of knowing that what I experienced as a child wasn’t ok, even if it was sanctioned by the pious and the Bible. I felt as though I could’ve been reading my own story in so many of the stories in the physical and emotional abuse chapters. I imagine there are thousands of children and adults who have, and are, currently suffering, who can find healing and solidarity, as well as a plan for raising the next generation without religious maltreatment.
From J. Steven Svoboda on November 29, 2012:
The entire volume is well researched, impartially analyzed, and incisively presented. Heimlich does not impress as an author with any particular axe to grind but rather with a scythe she wields in her valiant attempts to cut through to the truth behind the many ways in which we act out our societal and personal dysfunctions upon those least able to protect themselves.
From Lisa on November 20, 2012:
Very excellent research. A must read for those working with children from any culture.
From Richard on November 19, 2012:
As an attorney who has encountered horrible cases of child abuse (many arising from religious impulses), this book was, to me, a welcome addition to the literature that informs all of us about the horrors faced by many children in our culture. Every concerned, caring person should read it, at least once or twice!
From Anshel on November 16, 2012:
This book is fantastic! Finally someone is shedding light on child abuse in religious indoctrination. I am a Secular Jew.I have personally known a closed lesbian in the Lubavitcher community that is a perfect example of inner child wounding, neglect,and emotional scarring. . . . In Ultra-Orthodox circles you are shunned for shedding light on such issues. If I don’t speak out about what I have seen personally to someone (when I know there are countless others not saying a word), it is if I have condoned all of this. I actually find radical religiousness of any kind harmful to all age groups, genders, and sexual orientations. . . . Hopefully, even more [people] (just like myself) will question everything and see that religion can be harmful emotionally. We need to break the cycle of abuse by speaking out.
From Shirley on September 18, 2012:
This well-written and extensively researched book is MUST reading for anyone concerned about children and the direction of civilization.
An important book for today and for years to come until we can get beyond ignorance and false beliefs in the rearing of children.
From Anne Rice on April 7, 2012:
This book is well researched and well written, and frankly, I wish there were more like it on this topic. There is a lot of talk today from the Religious Right about “protecting the unborn” but there is not enough talk about protecting the children we already have from abuse. — This book alerts one to the various ways in which children can be abused, and are being abused, under the umbrella of religion, and I think it’s important for Americans to be informed on this matter. Our children are our future. And our children are our moral responsibility.
From Charlie on April 3, 2012:
This should be a mandatory read for all college students, and should be next to the Bible in every home.
From Ruthbug on March 29, 2012:
Your writing sheds light on the fact that these horrific events are still happening, and must be stopped.
I completely agree with your article and your aim to spread awareness on an issue which is still prominent and should not be. I hope that you shall continue your excellent work, and that it reaches those who are still under the delusion that hurting a child in the name of whatever God they may believe in is not acceptable.
From Angel on February 23, 2012:
Thank you for bringing this hardly known type of child abuse to light.
From Laurel on January 15, 2012:
Thank you so much for the work you are doing to protect our children from these horrors. . . . Keep up the amazing work. I’m sure it’s not easy. You are a true blessing to this planet.
From Michael on January 15, 2012:
You are doing great work for humanity.
From Mindi on January 7, 2012:
I was one of those helpless children. Spankings, indoctrination, fear, dictatorships, and authoritarianism prove prevalent in fundamentalist Christian denominations. All cloaked beneath the guise of love.
Unwitting parents subject their children to the leadership of these “churches,” without realizing the decades-long repercussions. Author Janet Heimlich spotlights this topic from her journalistic investigation.
From MEAnders on January 7, 2012:
The information that I gleamed from [the book] was a lot of validating of my past emotional abuse, religious abuse, and even some physical abuse that I experienced as a young person. . . . A must-read for those who have escaped their childhood religion and struggle with the consequences.
From Seabusicut on November 20, 2011:
I know all to well how dangerous religion can be. I’ve paid a dear price for the religious devotion of my parents and church. Please give Janet a chance to open a powerful conversation. Please find the courage to speak up and be heard in that conversation. Put your fear and hatred aside and listen. Our children deserve a safe place to grow up. And, it is our responsibility to make this happen.
From Barbara on November 16, 2011:
I have been personally very interested in this topic since the 80s because of my own experience. It seems like I haven’t seen or heard much about it in recent years. I am so glad you are speaking up on a topic most refuse to discuss.
From Ann on December 14, 2011:
I recommended your book to a client who has suffered religious abuse. I think she will gain much from it.
From Silas on November 9, 2011:
I love your book. I have it on Kindle. My mother was one of those that beat us. My older sis confronted her several years back. Then I got a email from my ma and I had told her I agree with my older sis. My ma said it was discipline…I told her it was abuse. I don’t know if she got it…I doubt it. . . . Some of the book is very difficult to read but I make myself read through.
From Dara on November 4, 2011:
I finally finished reading your book. It is really well done. Thank you for all the work that went into writing it. I will recommend it to others.
From Helga on October 7, 2011:
It has taken me several weeks to read this book. There is so much information in it. It is like a handbook for believers of all faiths on how NOT to raise the children in their flocks. My heart goes out to all those innocent kids who have not means of escaping the cruel treatment their fundamentalist parents and congregations inflict on them in the name of the Lord.
An intesnively researched and well written book that deserves a world-wide audience. Only by knowing what is wrong can we do something abut it. Let us not close our eyes and pretend this horror is not happening. I for one will recommend this book to all my friends and readers.
From Ethan on October 5, 2011:
A job so well done. The research was thorough and the treatment of the subject quite comprehensive. I found the book very readable, and I must say that I learned more about the subject than I was prepared to. You were very even-handed in your treatment of religion, and I compliment you on your focus on the well-being of children.
From Dara on September 29, 2011:
I’m up to about chapter 8 and I can’t tell you how much it’s making me MAD! Not you…the content…the truth…the reality of what is going on in our country! I used to be one of those…who believed so much of what you write of the Protestant mindset on spanking. Ugh! . . . . And, the abuse cases you write of…the children killed and what had happened to them! Ugh! It’s just…as I said…making me mad!!! I hope that books like yours are part of a chain of truth getting out into the world which will bring spanking to a stop sometime soon…we are all affected by this practice. THANK YOU for the commitment to the research you had to do…and for taking the time you had to take to write this book.
From Don on September 21, 2011:
I loved it! It is chock full of the kind of information people need to know.
From Think Athiest on September 16, 2011:
In an expose that is always powerful, often heartbreaking, and sometimes infuriating, the book exposes the nature and extent of religious child abuse in America. She joined us to talk about the subject of her book: physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, plus the withholding of medical care of children, all with religion as its justification.
From blogger Elizabeth Esther on September 5, 2011:
I finished reading “Breaking Their Will,” and it is one of the most marked up, dog-eared books I’ve read this whole year! You did such a splendid job researching the topic, and I am so impressed.
I have to be honest and say that I spent a good hour crying afterward. The book triggered so many of my own memories. I, too, was raised in a high-demand, authoritarian group. I was very nearly suicidal by age 20. I was spanked thousands of times. Anyway, I just want to thank you so much for writing this book.
From radio talk show host Louie Free on August 31, 2011:
YOU ARE AMAZING
You give voice to those victims who, before, were unheard.
You shine light – you expose monsters who would prefer to be unseen.
I’m honoured to know you – to read your work – to have you on my show.
From Carla on August 19, 2011:
This book is: shocking; maddening; eye-opening; incredibly sad; and just downright hard to believe. (I don’t mean that the author’s research is faulty; I mean that it’s difficult to accept that the things she describes in this book happen on a regular basis.)
From Debbie on July 18, 2011:
Ms. Heimlich presents the underside of religion and child maltreatment, neglect and abuse in a novel and courageous way. Her impeccable research, combined with a meticulous understanding and poignant interview skills, gives the reader a glimpse into a side of daily life in America to which few are privy. The detailed accounts she gives of the victims of abuse, and well-reasoned analysis paints a picture of a social problem grossly understated, under-reported, and under-prosecuted.
. . .
Because of the unexamined nature of this problem, it persists. A standing ovation to Ms. Heimlich for the courage to take on religious institutions with a blazing searchlight of truth — may her efforts not go unnoticed.
From Stilt on July 9, 2011:
Incredibly well researched (note the large bibliography and huge quantity of footnotes) and a very good read, too. Believe it or not, for this type of subject material, it is hard to put down. It is so well written and brings so much new information to bear. It’s as captivating as watching an excellent documentary on TV.
The subtitle is apt. I had no idea how much light could be shed on this topic. Amazingly and very unexpectedly, I learned something new on almost every page. I had no idea how little I knew on this topic.
From Louise on July 6, 2011:
This is a very balanced, scholarly book which I hope will become a bestseller. We all need to be brought up to date on the lingering perils of childrearing. There are countless blessings in parenting if we love as though lives depend on it. Actually they do: both ours as parents and our children’s who will be the future of our counting and the world. Bravo. Well done.
From Aralyn on July 6, 2011:
Janet is a skilled writer and has done her research on this. Everything you ever wanted to know about the subject and a feeling of enlightenment when you finish reading it. Eye opening and if you want to be in the know on a little known and discussed topic, this is for you.
From AP Mama on July 2, 2011:
I am very excited to read this book! I was abused and neglected as a child growing up in a Christian authoritarian environment. Even when it got so bad that the church couldn’t ignore it and stepped in, they still managed to fail to adequately protect me for fear of “hurting my good Christian parents’ reputation”. I have so many scars – not only from the abuse itself, but also from crying out for help & being ignored, shushed, forced to forgive, or even blamed.
Thank you for bringing light to a horrible tragedy going on right under our noses!
From Bruce on June 28, 2011:
I heartily recommend Janet Heimlich’s new book Breaking Their Will. If you want to study the connection between religion and child abuse this should be the first book you read. Religious child abuse can be stopped IF parents and religious leaders are willing to tackle the subject head-on.
From Raffi Cavoukian on June 19, 2011:
A definite must read from Ms. Heimlich, written with courage & insight. She quite rightly uses the word “maltreatment” to describe the wanton or neglectful disrespect to children that unquestioning religiosity can stir. This groundbreaking work can help bring us to a new religious moment in which the world’s faith traditions uphold the sanctity of the child. Not just for Americans (primary audience); the book speaks to all those who care about ending the poisonous pedagogy of punitive parenting, wherever they live. For this timely and compassionate work, the author deserves praise and gratitude. May her words be read and heeded by leaders of all religions & their denominations.
From L.D. Clark on June 18, 2011:
This is an important and timely book which takes head on a subject too long in the shadows. It’s the first comprehensive, detailed, and thoroughly researched look at the downside of religion as child abuse. And it’s about time. Religion has for far too long had a pass when it comes to the harm that is done in its name – against children as well as other believers. The remedies Ms. Heimlich suggests in the last chapter of the book are a good start to eliminating the abuse, as well as the cover-ups that appear to be so prevalent in organized religion. Bravo! This book should be read by everyone in America.
From Philip on June 14, 2011:
Sounds very interesting! Actually a topic of conversation at my house. I am going to buy a copy.
From William on June 12, 2011:
I am very interested in the religious roots of child abuse. I have long been convinced that Philip Greven and Alice Miller are on the right track in connecting our culture’s shockingly permissive attitude towards child abuse to religious roots that run deep in Western culture. I’m glad you are continuing that discussion.
From Richard on June 11, 2011:
I have added your book to my reading list of books to read….Although my research over the years has uncovered many of the excesses you write about, almost no one talks about the damage religious child grooming does to a child’s intellect.
From Angela on June 2, 2011:
This is an area of social justice too-long ignored under the guise of “religious liberty”. Children are worth the fight and the struggle to make it right. Thank you so much for your work!
From Jason on June 1, 2011:
I received my copy from Amazon just a few hours ago! It only took me a few minutes of thumbing through pages before I started crying; not for myself, but for all the little children who are now adults and for the ones that didn’t make it. I can’t read it yet; it’s still too fresh, even though I am overjoyed that the holocaust of many zealots’ children will find peace. Less and less will parents get away with breaking a child’s will. Now we will help break the cycle.
From Peace 4 Parents on May 26, 2011:
Thank you for exposing this and offering hope to parents who prefer not to abuse children under the guise of religion. Your efforts are appreciated and hopefully will be far reaching.
From Recovering Adventist on May 21, 2011:
Thank you for this book, I’m so glad that this problem is being looked at and discussed. I have suffered much pain at the hand of religion. My religious community was the perfect-storm scenario that you described. Thanks for this book.
From Miriam on May 15, 2011:
Bravo to this brave author for exposing this “righteous” abuse of our most helpless family members.
From Deborah on May 15, 2011:
Thank you for being willing to open this topic up and focus a spotlight in a very dark, secretive place, Jan Heimlich. You have done a bold, brave action.
From Samuel on May 15, 2011:
It is my pleasure to recommend Janet Heimlich’s new book, Breaking their Will . . . a must-have for all interested in the ongoing debate about violence against children. It is a great resource of information . . .
From Laurie on May 15, 2011:
The reviews you’ve received are a testament to you as a writer and researcher. Your ability to take this challenging but unspoken topic and put it out there is quite commendable. . . . I was never exposed to anything like this but have known people who have. It has mostly made me angry but also unsure of what else to do other than to love them and comfort them. I plan to share your book whenever I can.
From Asher on May 13, 2011:
Things are starting to improve [regarding greater awareness of religious child maltreatment] in a large part because of the efforts of people like Janet Heimlich reporting and documenting the facts on the ground.
From Kat on May 9, 2011:
I am very much in need of reading your research, as I’m a victim of what your book describes.
From child advocate Flora Jessop on March 17, 2011:
As a victim of religious abuse, this book helped me in my understanding of the dynamics employed and doctrines used.