It was more than sibling rivalry.
My Courage to Tell is the story of one woman’s struggle to overcome a childhood of abuse at the hands of her cruel, bullying brother. Memories of this abuse remain deeply buried until an aunt dies in Manhattan, leaving an estate Laura Corbeth must settle with her estranged brother. As she tries to administer the estate, Laura is plagued by symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Suppressed memories start to rise to the surface.
Laura begins to remember, and to face, a childhood of psychological and physical abuse. No cuts. No bruises. No scratches. Her brother was sly, constraining her to spit in her face, lick her or perform tickle torture. He took pleasure in dominating her and playing on her fears – relishing his control over his younger sibling. His lies and manipulations terrified her. Witnessing his torture of animals, left no doubt in Laura’s mind that her tormentor would follow through on his threat that he would kill her if she told.
And, where were her parents? Rather than investigating Laura’s deteriorating situation, they believed their son’s continuous lies as he denied his abuse of Laura. When they did catch glimpses of their son’s cruelty, they put it down to sibling rivalry. But it was not sibling rivalry. It was ruthless, relentless, psychological and physical abuse. And, by not dealing with it, her parents were complicit. Unheard, unprotected, Laura was completely on her own.
A Journey: Rising Above the Madness
My Courage to Tell is one of the first memoirs to shine a light on abuse from a sibling’s perspective. It also reveals how families that buy into the lies and manipulations, ignore the problems and stonewall, enable the abuser and foster mental illness.
Travel with Laura as she uncovers her past, finds the help and courage to face that past and ultimately confronts her abuser and her family.
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Read what people are saying!
Dr. Anita Federici, PhD, Clinical Psychologist
Laura really does something incredible with this book. She finds the strength and courage to tell a story about abuse – a story that will be all too familiar for millions of men and women – a story that often never gets told. She shines a spotlight on an area that demands our attention. Her brave account of suffering psychological abuse at the hands of an older brother, under the watchful eyes of her mother, is heartbreaking, riveting and empowering. It is a story that needs to be told.
Psychological and emotional abuse (terms I use interchangeably) are often misunderstood, minimized, or ignored. Over the past decade alone, there have been substantial advances with respect to identifying, preventing and treating those who have suffered sexual and physical abuse; however, there has much less attention to identifying and addressing psychological abuse.
MY COURAGE TO TELL makes the invisible visible. Reading Laura’s account of healing and recovery is inspirational and is an outstanding contribution to the literature on psychological abuse in families. Her willingness to confront and share the scary and painful reality of her childhood and detail how various treatment interventions allowed her to work through distressing memories, emotions, and beliefs will pave the way for others who recognize themselves in Laura’s story. This is a story about hope, resilience and strength for anyone experiencing psychological abuse.
Dr. Liam Marshall, PhD, Clinical Psychologist
I just finished reading this book and thought it was excellent. One of the hallmarks to me of a good book is that you either don’t want it to end, or have questions you desperately want to ask the author. This book left me with both feelings. I truly think reading this book will help others who have had a similar experience, parents and teachers to recognize when a child is struggling, and professionals to better understand what some of their patients are going through.
Don Shetterly, Author, Hope And Possibility Through Trauma—Seen on Oprah and Dr. Drew
This book had a significant impact on my life. I have never heard someone talk about psychological abuse and people who are a bully in the way that Laura did. She shared her struggle in a way that helped me see that I am not the only one who has gone through this. Yes, I know I had other challenges, but psychological abuse impacts you in different ways. It is a silent attacker that leaves many scars. Rarely do I finish a book this quickly, but I could not put this down. It is an easy and flowing read.
So much in the book resonated with me because I was tormented by more than one person. Thank you, Laura, for sharing your story because it has helped me see things differently. I highly recommend this book especially if you have dealt with a bully in your life or psychological abuse.
Louise Anton, Editor
I’ve had a professional relationship with Laura Corbeth for many years, having worked on numerous communications projects with her. During this time, we became friends, yet I knew little about her childhood or her relationship with her family. It was only with her aunt’s death that she began to share some of this with me. As Laura went through the process of dealing with her aunt’s estate, I saw her struggle with complex and difficult family relationships and with her emerging past. I also saw her courageously undertake the journey necessary for understanding and healing.
Laura’s writing about her experiences began as a therapeutic exercise, as part of the healing process she began under the guidance of her psychologist, but it grew into much more. Laura is not a writer, but her open heart and the recognition that her story could help others led her to turn these writings into a book.
When Laura asked if I could give this book “a light edit”, I felt privileged to walk beside her for a small way. My Courage to Tell is, intentionally, not a “polished” book. It is Laura’s story, told very much in Laura’s voice and, as such, will speak to others who have found themselves in similar family relationships. It is raw and it is insightful.
In My Courage to Tell, Laura relates her story of sharing her childhood with an abusive brother. It is both heartbreaking and uplifting. It is difficult to read about her brother’s bullying and her suffering. It is frustrating to read about two children left so unsupported by their parents — to see parents so willing to ignore what is going on and do little or nothing. However, it is uplifting to see Laura’s willingness to face her past and her present, and follow her journey to understand, integrate and overcome her experiences. Ultimately, her story is one of determination, courage and resilience.
My Courage to Tell also shines a light on how, historically, we have so inadequately recognized and addressed the emotional or psychological abuse of siblings and the related family dynamics. The publication of this book is a step forward in drawing attention to this problem and, hopefully, eliciting more support for both the individuals and families affected.
Dr. S.B. MacKenzie, B.Sc., MBA, PhD
Many have endured childhood bullying but one must imagine living all day, everyday with a bully to have an idea of how destructive that could be. My Courage to Tell is a page-turner about how the author survived years of constant abuse, how she confronted her tormentor and how she was able to move on to live a happy, productive life.
It's uncomfortable knowing someone went through such traumatic events but Ms. Corbeth's descriptive style takes the reader on this journey. She introduced stories from her past that grabbed my attention and I therefore found myself glued to the pages. One such story involved a poor Scottish aunt who died somewhat famous in NYC, a severe hoarder without a will. How did she get to America? How did she get her money? Why did she become a hoarder? What happened to her wealth? I wanted to know yet knew, in the context of this story, the answers would be unsettling.
My Courage to Tell will be of special interest to those whom have endured abuse/bullying and/or enjoy real-life stories of survival and healing.
A Few Excerpts
Chapter 5: Cyberbullying in Adult Form
Trauma is not only for soldiers. There are many recent discoveries of trauma and how it affects the brain. Also, recent publications and studies have now recognized that psychological abuse can be one of the worst types of abuse.
Every time I spoke to my brother, I had a surge of paralyzing fear. I experienced heart palpitations. I had increased blood pressure. Dread. I was frozen. This was not something I could control. It was completely unconscious. My conscious mind was saying that I had been told he had changed, but my subconscious was telling me a different story.
Chapter 16: Denial
The abuse I was getting was considered no big deal. It was made light of. It was made to be trivial. Inconsequential. I always was hearing it was just sibling rivalry. I had no physical signs of abuse. So, everything was okay.
With no protection from my brother’s sneaky abuse, I withdrew. I became an extreme introvert. Painfully shy. I was never allowed to talk about anything. I had no voice. It wasn’t right for little girls to get angry either – especially at parents. That was frowned upon. It was very wrong to be mad with a parent. I was not allowed to raise my voice. Good girls don’t raise their voices. So, I could never express my feelings and talk about anything that was happening. I learned to stuff everything down.
It was extremely frustrating. The abuse was going on right in front of my parents’ eyes and it was completely ignored or downplayed.
I felt I was going insane.
Chapter 23. Facing My Abuser
With courage and support, I felt compelled to send the letter. But when someone threatens your life, and you experience that terror, I found it was not that easy. I was experiencing trauma. I thought my abuser would come find me and kill me. I was telling. I was doing exactly what he threatened he'd kill me for doing…
I may have had to live in fear when I was little, and now I wanted to end the fear. End the abuse! I had support from my loving husband and son. They kept telling me how much they loved me and would protect me. Even though I knew they were there, Little Laura still panicked. She needed to be consoled and loved. I continued to do that. I told my inner child, Little Laura, that she was being so brave…
I’m strong. I am powerful. I am going to do this through my fear,” I said to myself. I was alone at my computer. I took a deep breath.
I shook. I trembled. I took slow breaths. I needed to do it. Even though I was fearful, I kept praying. I kept breathing. Then… I pushed the send button.
It was gone!!!
I couldn’t believe I did it. It was so many years of hidden abuse that was exposed with one little “send” button. The most empowering part of my letter was the last page reclaiming my power.