Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

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August 17, 2013

Fator pens ‘Keeping Laughter Alive’

Autobiography recounts abusive father, husband

Corsicana — Marie Fator, Terry Fator’s mother, will be signing copies of her new autobiography, “Keep Laughter Alive,” from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday in the Nancy Roberts Meeting Room at the Corsicana Public Library, 100 N. 12th. St.

Marie’s book is not a joyous read of the path of a famous son and his adoring family. It is a story about the cycle of abuse that echoes down multiple generations of the family. At 69, Marie Fator spent quite a bit of time in Corsicana. She moved to Corsicana with her parents when she was six months old, and lived here until she was about seven years old. She and her first husband, Jeff, moved to Corsicana in 1980 with their three children, and she lived here until 1994, when she finally left her abusive husband and filed for divorce. Her daughter, Debi, didn’t leave Corsicana until 2006. The entire Fator family still has friends and extended family in Navarro County.

“Most people know Terry from America’s Got Talent, but Terry was also in a band with his brother called Texas the Band, and Terry was very active in the Warehouse Living Arts Center,” Marie said.

Her book, which is subtitled “The Inspiring Story of One Woman’s Determination to Live a Happy Life Despite the Odds,” was a five-year project. She began it in 2008, after Terry won a national television talent competition and was whisked away to an almost fairy-tale-like career in Las Vegas.

Before Terry made it big, however, his family endured 30 years of abuse at the hands of his father, Jeff. It’s a cycle of abuse that’s described in some shocking detail by Marie in her book.

“People say you can’t be brainwashed, but you can,” she said in a phone interview this past week. “If a beautiful little girl listens long enough to how ugly she is, she grows up feeling ugly.”

Her mother, and she and her siblings were abused by her father, who also came from an abusive home. Her ex-husband’s father was also abused. Then Marie went into an abusive marriage herself.

One of the reasons for writing the book was to reveal the cycle of abuse that exists, and how it carries down over the generations, she said.

“My life and my children’s lives will never be the same because of the abuse we suffered,” she said.

In looking at the patterns, she came to realize that while the women who lived with their abusers loved their children, they still allowed their husbands to abuse their children.

“My mother was not raised with abuse, but married into abuse. She just accepted it and lived with it,” she said. “My ex-husband was raised with an abusive father. I, in turn, mimicked what my mother and (paternal) grandmother did and ignored my husband’s abuse.”

The longer a woman stays in an abusive situation the more passive she becomes, Marie said.

“You do whatever you can to keep the abuser happy, to make peace, because if you don’t there will be hell to pay,” she said. “It’s a really sad cycle that repeats itself over and over.”

“I can’t tell you how hopeless I felt,” she tried to explain. Unable to see a way out, she stayed and made the best of it.

“I’m a strong woman,” she said. “I’m not somebody you can push around, but under certain circumstances, you follow, and it can get out of control.”

Why she stayed with her ex-husband for as long as she did is also answered in her book.

“In discussing the reason why we stayed under Jeff’s control for so long, my children and I all agreed it was fear, and a conditioned response — learned behavior,” she wrote.

“Abusers always know the right thing to say or do to make you feel sorry for them,” Marie stated in her book. “They feel no remorse at dividing the family and pitting one against the other to get what they want. They are skilled manipulators, and when exposed will stop at nothing to deflect the attention from themselves and onto the victim or victims,” she wrote. “Sadly, religious manipulators and abusers are the worst because they hide behind the cloak of godliness.”

When she finally decided to leave her husband, Marie Fator said she was ostracized by her family for about six years. She went to college and got counseling and found a career for herself. It was during that period that she experienced another personal trauma, which is also described in the book.

“I can remember thinking ‘what’s the point? I have nothing left to give,’ ” she said. “But we’ve all been blessed with deep inner strength and if we pull from that we can make it, maybe not a day at a time, but maybe a minute at a time.”

She also believes that bitterness and anger are what breaks people’s spirits, Marie Fator said. “I know that I have plenty of reasons to be angry... (but) I was able to keep my laughter, and if you read the story of me and my kids, you know we laughed a lot. That keeps your spirit alive.”

Fator has also started a non-profit organization, called “Hope for Brighter Days,” which will offer counseling, education and housing for abuse victims. A portion of the proceeds from the book will go towards the organization. More information about the organization is available at www.hopeforbrighterdays.org. An excerpt from the book can be read at www.mariefator.com.

Marie Fator is now working on a second book about the effects of misguided religious teachings that condone abusive behavior.

“I was told to keep your mouth shut if your husband beats you to a pulp,” she said on that subject. “That’s a crock. No person on this earth has a right to abuse another person. It’s not God-given. Abuse is wrong, period.”

Reception for the book has been very positive, Marie Fator said.

“I’ve had so many people tell me it’s a captivating story,” she said. “I will tell you it was a very difficult story to write, and a difficult life to live but I’m blessed I’ve been able to overcome it.”

Even before its release, the book won a Pinnacle Book Achievement Award, prizes given mostly to new authors from the North American Bookdealers Exchange.

Her most famous son, Terry, read a rough draft early on in the process and wasn’t impressed, but he praised the finished product.

“He was very enthusiastic about it and that made me happy,” Marie Fator said. “He said ‘Mom, I could hardly wait to read the next chapter and I lived it.’”

     —————

Janet Jacobs may be reached via email at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “Soundoff” to this article? Email: soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com

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