No matter how visceral and uncomfortable it can be to watch an episode of Criminal Minds, the reality is that brutal fact always trumps fiction. There is nothing an author or a film director can imagine that is not worse in reality. What makes it worse is that it actually happened to a real human being; a human being who experienced real terror at the hands of another and that is something that can never be completely transferred to the screen.
Knowing what I did about Jim Clemente before I read his debut novel, the semi-autobiographical Without Consent (Rothco Press) – his career in the FBI, illness, his involvement in Criminal Minds as an advisor and later a writer and campaigner for victims of child sex abuse (for which he was interviewed by Oprah) – knowing all of that did not really prepare me for the emotional impact of Clemente’s story. Not for a heartstopping minute.
Without Consent is the story of Tony Dante, a NYC prosecutor who battles the criminals, the system and his own personal demons. And one day, that demon reappears in Tony’s life, out of the blue, smiling and complicit and still, somehow, involved in Tony’s life. What happens next is that Tony must deal with his tormentor and bring him to justice, while trying to salvage his own life, seek justice for other sexually abused children and somehow just function as a human being. Clemente writes as if he is telling you Tony’s story face-to-face. It is compelling, stark and non-sensationalist. It is a raw account.
I would be lying to you if I said this book did not make me cry. I cried several times throughout it, because I knew this had happened to the guy who had written it; because I knew that it had happened to people I know, but mostly because I know that child sex abuse happens all the time, every day, every where in the world … all the broken hearts and broken lives; all that fear and terror and living with shame.
But what made me cry the most was Tony’s open heart letter to Holly, the first time he was truly able to express his feelings to someone he cared about. I don’t know if that happened for real, but I hope it did.
The world can be a strange and terrifying place. It is also a place of magic and wonder and part of the magic is that without social media I would never have had the chance to communicate directly with Jim Clemente. I would not be able to tell you that even though he has been a fighter, a hero and a television and media personality, he is in reality the honest-to-goodness, self-effacing modest guy that you will find in Tony Dante.
So many men have taken their lives over the abuse they endured as children. Jim Clemente lived to tell – and to campaign against the stigma surrounding child sex abuse, help make Criminal Minds one of the best shows on TV and to write a book that will always stay with me.
For more information on Jim Clemente, visit his website
Without Consent is available on Amazon
Jim Clemente is also involved with The Bristlecone Project which is devoted to helping men overcome sexual abuse. For more information and help, visit them here