Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Life Behind the Masks: Surviving and Healing from Mother-Daughter Sexual Abuse by Wilma MacLiver


Life Behind the Masks: Surviving and Healing from Mother-Daughter Sexual Abuse

By Wilma MacLiver




Mother-Daughter Sexual Abuse ~ MDSA


The ultimate betrayal of a child's trust. The taboo subject led by society's denial that abuse of this nature even occurs.


Wilma survived 16 years of her mother Hellen's brutal, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse-including acts of torture.


Manipulated, controlled, and violated from her earliest memories, Wilma despaired from the constant hunger, sexual abuse, violent beatings, and strip searches. She feared suicide was her only option.


The stigma and shame of the abuse silenced Wilma for years.


As Wilma found the courage to speak her unspeakable secret- she was relieved by the support she received, after years of being convinced no one would believe her.


MacLiver wrote her powerful, true story in this inspiring book from a daughter-survivor's point of view.


Life Behind the Masks is a must-read to witness her miracle healing from the worst kind of sexual abuse- an unforgettable memoir.

Available in Paperback & eBook

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About the Author

Wilma MacLiver was born in Pennsylvania in 1964 and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. She began writing at the age of 10 to relieve the pain of her mother’s unrelenting abuse. When she began to receive help for the abuse, she searched for a book on mother-daughter sexual abuse (MDSA), from a daughter’s perspective. There were none available. She decided then, that if she could ever find the courage, she would write her personal memoir, for other daughters searching.


She knew she wasn’t alone.


This is her true account of the unspeakable abuse she suffered. When she was 10, Wilma saw a diary with a lock and key. She had no money to purchase it, but she was intrigued by the idea that she could write, and no one be able to read her private thoughts. In her environment, she always had to find a way, and this was no exception; so, she began writing on notebook paper–Hellen would never know–and she flushed the papers down the toilet so Hellen wouldn’t find them. Her system worked and provided some relief. Through the years, she wrote and hid her journals.


Eventually, she was able to confide in her husband Greg, and finally her counselors. She kept journals throughout her counseling and healing process. Wilma continues to journal and to write nonfiction, poetry, fiction, and humor.


She is a public speaker and lives in Arizona with her husband Greg, of forty years. Wilma enjoys coffee, reading, long walks and spending time with her family and friends.

This is her first book.

Top reviews from the United States

Kathleen Malone

5.0 out of 5 stars Masks are not just for covid or halloween...

Reviewed in the United States on October 15, 2021

Masks? They most often appear at Halloween, but these were not the kinds of masks Wilma MacLiver needed in order to endure the first 16 years of her life. The kinds of masks the title of this book relates to are the ones that covered tears unshed, wounds untreated, words unsaid, and pain suffered in silence. These invisible ones are the kinds of masks necessary when a mother abuses a daughter. That the author survived severe torment to receive healing is a testament to the healing all humanity needs right now. For her, the appropriate combination of modalities for her ongoing healing of physical and emotional abuse is pastoral counseling, the science of EMDR, and an ability to write the truth. She abandoned the masks and raised her voice through Life Behind the Masks. She deserves admiration, honor, and gratitude.

3 people found this helpful



5.0 out of 5 stars Mother-Daughter Sexual Abuse (MDSA) Comes To Light In This Memoir

Reviewed in the United States on September 17, 2021

Child abuse should never happen, but it does. When it happens between a mother and daughter, especially the way it is described in BEHIND THE MASKS, the crime is even more criminal. The value for readers in this book is the promise of healing. The author was able to overcome embedded trauma to raise two children and break the cycle of abuse. Remarkable. The value of compassionate counseling and EMDR therapy are matched by the deep love the author describes between her and her husband. May this book guide other victims of abuse along the paths of their own healings.

2 people found this helpful


Jennifer Jenkins

5.0 out of 5 stars Heartwrenching, Powerful, and Full of Grace

Reviewed in the United States on October 9, 2021

Wilma is a fantastic narrator with her choice of words and images. My heart literally broke reading all of the horrific acts she endured at the hands of her own mother, and I could play them out in my mind. Yet, the book serves as a powerful reminder to always be vigilant in protecting our children. The grace of God she experienced and was able to use to forgive her mother and close her book was in one word....amazing. I am highly humbled to have met the author, and she is a giant among women. I highly recommend this book to anyone that may be going thru their own struggles. Well done, Wilma!

3 people found this helpful


Ryan S

5.0 out of 5 stars The story we should all read

Reviewed in the United States on October 19, 2021

What stories should we know, even if we wouldn't wish the knowledge on anyone? Wilma MacLiver's story is one of those. A wonderfully woven tale of heartache, pain, perseverance, healing, and survival, MacLiver's story brings us to tears and spotlights our collective passe toward violent sexual abuse that may occur right next door. We cannot not read. We cannot not act.

2 people found this helpful


Amazon Customer

5.0 out of 5 stars a very courageous writer and story

Reviewed in the United States on October 4, 2021

Wilma MacLiver tells a very courageous story.

3 people found this helpful


An extraordinary memoir, Life Behind the Masks, shares the painfully trauma-ridden childhood of a truly exceptional woman. Wilma lets other survivors know they are not alone, they matter, and what happens to them matters. Through Wilma MacLiver's undaunted courage to break the cycle of childhood sexual abuse in her family, the reader aligns with her struggle to share her voice, a voice kept silent for too long. She reminds us that through acknowledgement, healing comes. We are lifted as Wilma becomes unmasked and reclaims her life!

~ Trisha Meili, New York Times bestselling author, I Am the Central Park Jogger: A Story of Hope and Possibility


Child sexual abuse often brings up many questions, with "Why didn't they tell?" being first on the list. It is difficult for people to comprehend the way abuse can impact a child's every thought, action, and reaction—much less understand the long-term havoc it creates in their life. Wilma's amazing courage to bare her soul and share her childhood with the reader strikes pay dirt: one cannot read her account without having an answer to this question, as well as a host of others. Wilma's genuineness and willingness to explore her own culpability is profound and calls attention to the mental anguish victims go through, as they own the shame and guilt dumped on them by their offender. It fosters an understanding that is clear: not lost in theory and speculation. Wilma's account of her life experiences is a gift to other victims, to those who advocate for them, and to humanity.

~ Dorthy Stucky Halley, LMSW, Victim Services Division Director Office of Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt


Stark and unfiltered. A survivor's account of her childhood marred by the trauma of maternal abuse. All the signs were there, but those who might have intervened either could not or would not see it. Frustratingly familiar. This book should be required reading for anyone who works with children or with survivors of abuse.

~ Susan Kostenko, M.D. (retired) Adult Psychiatry and Substance Abuse


I read the book and it was amazing! It is a very powerful and inspiring story. Thank you, I look forward to more from this author. ~ Amazon Reader


A riveting and extraordinary memoir about growing up with an abusive mother, Life Behind the Masks: Surviving and Healing from Mother-Daughter Sexual Abuse by Wilma MacLiver is a bold and startling revelation of the author’s traumatic ordeal with her mother. It takes a lot of courage to reveal one’s experience of child abuse for its disturbing and naked reality. But it must be told as part of the step to help other children realize that they are not alone and that there are people and support groups out there who are more than willing to help. The author’s account is her way of reaching out to others who have experienced similar trauma, and her story will trigger your blood to boil and even make you shed a tear for the thought that no human being deserves to be treated this way. I am glad to have the opportunity to read and review Life Behind the Masks. Wilma MacLiver writes with candor, and there is no masking of her feelings toward her mother. This is a real-life story that is not for the faint of heart, as it includes descriptions of physical and emotional violence that are not limited to sexual abuse but as well as bullying, harassment, and animal cruelty. Nonetheless, there is still a very good part to MacLiver’s story: She has written the tale of her pain so well that she has found closure from all the support and from her freedom to speak. This is an awe-inspiring, real-life story of survival and healing that deserves to be read. by Vincent Dublado


Many memoirs carry trigger warnings on their covers for victims of abuse. As one of those victims, I have rarely been triggered by most narrators’ painful true stories, but Life Behind the Masks by Wilma MacLiver both shocked and surprised me. The shock was due to the gender and horrific actions of Wilma’s abuser: her mother. The surprise rests in how many times I recognized the methods both our parent abusers used to brainwash, guilt-trip, and generate beliefs of stupidity and feelings of self-loathing within us. Yet, despite thoughts of suicide, we both survived, perhaps because of this quote by Theodore Roosevelt that Wilma supplied: “Courage is not having strength to go on; it is going on when you don’t have the strength.” That is what Wilma did, day after day, when her almost maniacal mother beat and starved her, sexually abused her at night, and berated her as stupid, and unpleasing to God. Then, without warning, Wilma’s mother physically removed herself from her daughter’s life when Wilma was 16, but Wilma’s spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical scars took years of therapy to heal. That said, it will come as no surprise to any abuse victim that regardless of therapy, one never truly forgets. One of the best quotes that summarize why and how Wilma’s mother so effectively kept Wilma prisoner of her own depraved needs comes from Proverbs 18:21 (KJV): “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” This mother’s tongue was even more vicious than her physical abuse. Both will make readers cringe but even more repulsive is how this mother used the Bible to justify her actions and saw herself as a good woman worthy of God’s love. Interestingly enough, it’s what we learn toward the end about the mother’s past that helps us understand, but not excuse her horrible persecution of Wilma. Wilma MacLiver’s approach to telling her story is through sharing her thoughts about events she recorded in her journal, then expanded upon and clarified through those involved in her therapy. This gives readers an in-depth and less one-sided view of both her mother’s and Wilma’s behavior. It’s a balanced approach to memoir writing. Life Behind the Masks is the kind of memoir that any group, whether they be abuse victims, students or counselors will want to discuss. If you belong to any one of these groups, this memoir is a worthwhile addition to your library. by Viga Boland


Life Behind the Masks: Surviving and Healing from Mother-Daughter Sexual Abuse by Wilma MacLiver is a harrowing and revealing book about what she endured as a child and later as a teenager. The chaotic environment of manipulation, starvation, and countless other abuses that she survived. Her life today is a testament to what one can endure and overcome. On pages 362-363 is one of the quotes that stayed with me: “They say the truth hurts, but here’s how it worked in my life: I hurt more people, including myself, ‘trying to protect the secret’…” These words are an epiphany that anyone can understand; the damage that comes from keeping a secret. Wilma MacLiver’s, Life Behind the Masks is a godsend for someone wanting to reach out to someone else, or to bond with someone that has survived the same trauma. by Erin Nicole Cochran


Life Behind the Masks: Surviving and Healing from Mother-Daughter Sexual Abuse by Wilma MacLiver is an absorbing, unforgettable story of resilience and overcoming. It involves the unmasking of mother-daughter sexual abuse, but it takes you back to explain how it all happened. This powerful story could be triggering for some victims, so readers should be forewarned. But there are other readers who need to hear this story, as it can help them face or overcome their own abusive childhoods. This is a secret that many hide but this book pulls back the curtain in an informative, helpful way. Wilma's mother neglected and abused her for years, basically dominating and controlling her like a slave. She endured in silence and even thought of suicide, but finally discovered the strength to speak the forbidden truth. Met with surprising support, she found people that believed her and decided to write her story. As a former social worker, I can say that this memoir was most likely a cathartic experience for the author, but it can also be a point of light and impetus for other victims to speak out. In a way, Wilma is blazing a trail for others. So many people don't catch the signs, don't believe them, or ignore/minimize them. Even though parts of the book are dark and painful, it is balanced with hope and positivity. The writing style is raw and powerful. An example would be the line where she says: "As a result, abuse and incest continued to be my reality. In essence, my kindergarten." I recommend Wilma's story to help professionals everywhere, including teachers, clergy, and support groups. If you or someone you know has been living behind a mask, Life Behind the Masks by Wilma MacLiver could be the beginning of healing in your life. by Tammy Ruggles


Life Behind the Masks is a gripping memoir recounting the horrors endured by Wilma MacLiver during the first sixteen years of her life at the hands of her own mother, Hellen, who abused her both physically and sexually. Through years of therapy, Wilma was able to garner the courage, come forward, and speak up about the horrors she encountered. Life Behind the Masks: Surviving and Healing from Mother-Daughter Sexual Abuse is both a horrifying and inspiring read. To think that anyone would have to and could endure such horrors truly causes a chill to run up your spine, but in the same breath, my admiration for Wilma and her courage is endless. This book truly had me going through an emotional roller coaster and caused me to take a good long look at my life. The chapters start out quite short; however, this is to be expected as they contain memories from many years past. The later chapters are what truly shake you up and cause tears to form. Overall, this memoir is beautifully written and speaks out on a topic that not many are willing to speak about. It is real and raw and shows the ins and outs of life as a survivor of abuse. by Miche Arendse

 From the Author

Abused children live in environments that are beyond their comprehension. What actually happens to children in those circumstances is shocking and deplorable to read about.

The subject of child abuse is difficult, emotional, and disturbing, but it is real. I never imagined I would write about the nightmare of living in my mother’s house, but as I sorted through the memories, I searched for a memoir similar to my own. I found books written by victims of abuse, but none that addressed Mother-Daughter Sexual Abuse (MDSA). My searches left me feeling isolated and different. I decided then, that if I ever had the courage, I would write my memoir for other daughters who were searching.

This is the true account of my childhood- one that was terrorized by my mother, Hellen.

During my early years, Hellen betrayed and abandoned her role as mother and became a predator from which I could not escape. The mother I depended on and trusted to love and protect me, instead exploited and destroyed my innocence.

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