2009-05-29 / Community

Only The Strong Survive Abuse At A Young Age

By Jessica Durham

"Only the Strong Survive" is a memoir from local author Sabrina Lewis. "Only the Strong Survive" is a memoir from local author Sabrina Lewis. Sabrina Lewis was unsure of how her children and her mother would respond to her story of abuse suffered at a young age.

"I never told my children about the abuse in detail and didn't want them to be emotionally bothered."

But Lewis said she made a decision to let out the secrets that she held for more than 30 years. She wrote a book entitled "Only the Strong Survive," published by Author House in February 2009. This book is composed of several true stories, including her own, of Lewis' family members and the situations they went through living in South Jamaica, Queens, that many people today live through on a day to day basis.

"Only the Strong Survive" brings out emotions from the reader and one asks oneself, "How could this happen to a person?" The story is compelling; even the cover, which can be interpreted in many ways. Lewis said she chose that cover. It pictures a man who is depressed, sitting at the bottom of a bottle; but there is a way out and that is at the top of the bottle, Lewis said. She also chose the book title based on something her father always would tell her, "Only the strong survive." She said when she would hear that, any situation she faced she had to overcome it.

The book is primarily based on Lewis' brother, Otis. He tells the last story in the book.

"Some kids don't even know its abuse," Lewis said. "But, when men are sexually abused, especially by a man, it's more devastating than anybody can imagine." Lewis also wrote in the book about her own abuse by men in her household and by men her mother would bring home. Lewis said she believes her mother allowed this to happen just because there was money involved.

The other stories are about Lewis' cousins Ernest, Donna and Charlie. All three tested HIV positive and eventually, full blown AIDS. When asked who inspired her to write the book, Lewis responded by saying, "I grew up with them while they were deteriorating away. I asked my cousins, 'Don't you want to tell your kids something?' So I asked them to be a part of it." Lewis said. "They really encouraged me. If they can tell their story, I can tell mine."

Lewis' five children were initially upset when they read the book, Lewis said. But after time, they understood why their mother had to write the book and understand why she was very overprotective of them when they were young. Lewis' mother stopped talking to her after reading the book. "That's her choice not to speak to me because I wrote the book," Lewis said.

Lewis lived in Edgemere from 1983 to 1987. She is now 46 years old and a single mother. Presently, she lives in Flushing and started her own company in January 2009 called "Only the Strong Survive." The company is based on motivational speaking to different groups of people, Lewis said, including parents and children. She speaks at different venues. Today she will be speaking at Jamaica Help Center. In June, she plans on speaking at J-Cap, a drug rehabilitation center in Jamaica, NY.

"It is rewarding. It's the first step to healing, letting it out and talking about it."

In March, 2010, Lewis said she will be publishing another book.

"No matter how hard or how low you get in life, there is always a way out," Lewis said. "You have to focus on what you want in life and strive for it. You have to love yourself first."

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