From the March, 2008 issue of Touchstone

Survivor Daughter by Rory Leishman

Survivor Daughter

Out from Under: The Impact Of Homosexual Parenting
by Dawn Stefanowicz
Annotation Press, 2007
(245 pages, $14.95, paperback)

reviewed by Rory Leishman

From early childhood, Dawn Stefanowicz was painfully aware that her father was rarely home to care for his wife and their three children. One summer he took the entire family to a cottage for a week-long vacation. Once there, he promptly disappeared. Dawn was then nine years old.

She recalls thinking: “It hasn’t been work that has called him away, but pleasure. The hard truth that all of us struggle to understand is that Dad prefers the company of other men to that of his wife and children.”

Walking Dead

Throughout Dawn’s childhood, her father exposed the family to one transient boyfriend after another. She writes, in this open and honest account: “Though for a few months at a stretch it might appear Dad was settling into a monogamous relationship with just one other man, appearances were deceiving. In fact, Dad’s sex life was becoming ever more chaotic and reckless. He still had one-night stands with lovers he’d casually bring home any night of the week.”

Having been raised as an Evangelical Christian, Dawn’s father sent his children to Sunday school. Not surprisingly, Dawn stopped going to church at twelve.

I was angry with God for all that had gone wrong in my life and for putting me in the care of such a screwed-up family. For more than five years, I was fundamentally unable to trust Him. With my mannish punk rock haircut, I thought that by carrying a masculine armour of cold indifference I would be able to keep everyone at a distance, including God. But it wasn’t working. Eventually, I knew I wanted God back in my life—I just didn’t know how.

Together with her mother and twin brother, Dawn eventually started attending a church once again and soon thereafter recommitted her life to Christ. Thanks to a Grade 12 essay that she had written on the Book of Job, she began to understand the link between her faith and her suffering.

Meanwhile, despite a chaotic private life, her father became a successful and prosperous head of a national company of management consultants. But inevitably his sexual promiscuity took its toll: After several years of debilitating illness, he died of AIDS at age 51.

Three years before his death, he, too, underwent a transformation. “In 1988, I learned that Dad had accepted the Lord. . . . He was a walking dead man by this point and knew it, even if he wouldn’t share that knowledge with us. I tremble to contemplate the magnitude of his fears and regrets as he looked back over a life that was about to end.”

A Father’s Confession

Dawn and her father were reconciled. She recalls the day he told her that he had always wanted children and never regretted having her: “This confession alone I have come to regard as the greatest gift he ever gave me,” she writes. “If the reopening of relations with Dad exposed me to a lot of pain as well, this one longed-for statement from him made all of it worthwhile.”

Despite everything, Dawn loved her father. She shares this compelling and eloquent account “not out of spite, but with a desire to get out from under the wreckage created when sexual boundaries are obscured, to achieve freedom through telling the truth, and to benefit other children who have endured a similar household.”

Rory Leishman is a former lecturer in political science at the University of Western Ontario and national affairs columnist for the London Free Press. Now a freelancer, he writes a regular column on national affairs for his local newspaper as well as Catholic Insight magazine and the Interim: Canada?s Pro-Life Pro-Family Newspaper Online.

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