Snatched from her family at 4 years old, childhood abuse and adult cult survivor shares story

Mill Valley, California Penny’s life was like a fairy tale–the terrible kind. Penny Lane was four years old when she was snatched from her home. The strange man’s foreign accent was as rough as his kisses; her beloved Aunt Charlotte introduced him as Penny’s father. As the girl and her suitcase were bundled into a car, Aunt Charlotte revealed a horrifying truth: Penny’s mother died when she was a baby, and her Hungarian father had suddenly claimed her. Her illusion of family shattered, from that moment Penny’s uprooted life became an exercise in survival. 

The abuse started quickly: Her new stepmother beat her bloody for eating a slice of bread without asking, beat her for lies she never told, beat her without excuse. As she grew into a young adult, Penny’s boyfriend introduced her to church. But instead of finding solace, she was sucked into a too-familiar cycle of manipulation as the charismatic leaders exerted cult-like control. After being pressured into marriage and enduring years of forced confessions, Salem-style accusations, secretive disciplinary actions, and ostracization, Penny reaches her breaking point. Could she leave the church and her husband–and confront her abusers–and finally navigate life on her own terms?

A harrowing story of survival, this deeply poignant narrative explores learning to give yourself what others have denied you. 

“Redeemed: A Memoir of a Stolen Childhood”

Penny Lane | June 25, 2024 | She Writes Press | Memoir 

Paperback | 978-1-64742-700-9 | $17.95 

Penny Lane is a writer, wife and mother with an insatiable passion for life and books. Originally from Jackson Heights, Queens, she loves being outdoors-cycling, hiking, traveling, and connecting to, and inspiring people. She has a BS in business and management from the University of Phoenix and an MA in industrial/organizational psychology from Golden Gate University. In her spare time, she helps underserved youth learn to read, apply to college, and find jobs once they graduate, and in food pantries and other non-profits near her home in Mill Valley, California. Find out more at her website here.


Follow Penny Lane on social media: 

Facebook: @pennylanewriter | Instagram: @pennylane_writer | TikTok: @writerpennylane 

In an interview, Penny Lane can discuss:

  • Navigating the turbulent waters of enduring abuse amidst the weighty burdens of societal expectations and the rigid constraints of religious pressures
  • Empowering individuals to bravely sever ties with detrimental religious doctrines and toxic familial environments, igniting a journey towards freedom and self-discovery
  • Embarking on her writing journey, particularly when revisiting the terrain of childhood trauma, is akin to navigating through a labyrinth of emotions and memories, where each step is a courageous act of self-discovery and healing, unraveling the intricate layers of her past to unveil the resilience that lies within her narrative
  • The effects of childhood trauma on us as adults, how to navigate it, and how to be a better person for it
  • A path toward healing,overcoming and thriving

An Interview with

Penny Lane

1.Thank you so much for sharing your vulnerable story with the world. Why do you feel it’s important for you to speak out about your abuse and write this memoir?

I felt compelled to write this book- people have told me for 30 years that I need to write. When we are abused, we are also silenced. Writing about it is a way to say, no! I won’t be threatened anymore. I will speak the truth because truth heals. When I was finally strong enough to deal with my abuse at age 30, there were very few books about people surviving or living after abuse. We (abused) are damaged people, and tend to hide our abuse; we’re ashamed of it. I was taught to hide it, and not talk about it. I wrote this book to inspire others to speak out, get help and know that by being open about it instead of hiding it, they will find kinship, connection, and healing.

2. Do you feel you were able to capture the depth of your pain and abuse and your abuser’s malice? Why or why not?

I was not a writer, so this was my first attempt at writing anything. I simply did not have the language, or the ability to convey how ongoing, all-consuming, and constant my pain and mistreatment was. Also, when I learned to write memoir, I was told no one wanted to read a “misery-memoir.” Also, Mary Karr said in her famous book “The Art of Memoir” to try to be as kind as we can to our enemies, so I was. When I worked with my editor- who was wonderful- he said, “enough; we get it, you were abused. We can’t keep listing your abuse- people can’t take it. So, I let it go, but it was much worse than I could convey.

3. How did your trauma affect you after you left, or as an adult?

When I first left, at 16, I had no idea how traumatized I was-or that my abuse would affected me even though I had left home. When I joined the church at 17, they would not discuss any type of trauma, or mental health issues because anything that happened was “God’s will,” therefore no need to discuss it. As I started dealing with my trauma, I started to see that it affects every part of my life, some for better, some for worse. For example, most of my decisions are motivated by fear- or insecurity- fear of failure, of being poor, or unloved, or being a bad mother, or alone. I can be distrusting, nervous, fearful. On the positive side, I always root for the underdogs, and help people who are hurting or suffering as much as I can. It’s made me a better person, but also a more fearful person.

4. How do you avoid bitterness and anger and focus on working hard and being kind after such horrible treatment?

What I wanted more than anything else was to be treated fairly, to be loved and to be happy. You can’t be happy and bitter at the same time. Also, in my family and in the church, I was always accused of being “bad,” or a liar; I was always in the wrong, they were always right, so when I finally left, I worked really hard to make sure I didn’t do anything wrong, so no one could accuse me of doing anything wrong. I became an overachiever, the doer. Healing is not linear- just because you know intellectually it wasn’t your fault- doesn’t mean you always know how to live that way. You keep working on it every day.

5. Who did you look to for inspiration to get through your abuse? Who did you look to for inspiration as a first time writer?

In the ‘90’s when I was in my 30’s, I read the Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison, when I first realized there are other people like me in the world. For the first time, I realized I was not alone. Then I met a very good friend who was in recovery, and because she shared her dysfunctional upbring with me- I was able to confide in her, and it was a huge release. She made me to go to Al-Anon meetings. I went to therapy. I started reading psychology books like Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman. As a first-time writer, I looked to Jeannette Walls, Anne Lamont and Mary Karr.

6. Is there anything you would like to share or say to people who have gone through similar childhood abuse?

I’d say, please know that you don’t have to hide anymore. People are more open to talking about our mental health today- because that is what this is- our mental health. Talking about your abuse – to a friend, therapist, or partner, will start to heal you. The abuse was never about you- it was about your abusers’ issues- yet it’s up to us to decide to heal. To decide to be happy. To decide not to let anyone or anything stop you from finding that release, validation, and freedom from those chains. It won’t be easy- but it is very rewarding. Standing up to your truth is very empowering. You are not alone- in sharing, you will find kindred souls to share the journey.

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