International author and child abuse victim (or rather, survivor) Gregg Milligan paid a recent visit to Thailand to speak about his horrific childhood traumas and discuss abuse prevention tactics with universities, churches and non-profit organisations across Southeast Asia. While this particular visit was spent mostly in Bangkok, Milligan also passed through Chiang Mai to talk with Ben Svasti Thompson, Chiang Mai’s British Honorary Consul, regarding future speaking opportunities in Chiang Mai.
Originally from Minnesota, US, Milligan grew up in what he referred to as “a dirty, forgotten place,” a neighbourhood ripe with alcoholism, prostitution and poverty. With an absent father who only returned home to threaten, beat and then once again leave his wife (Milligan’s mother) along with Milligan and his older brother and younger sister, Milligan’s sole relationship was with his mother, the woman he said “was his world,” even though she almost brought an end to it.
“There was physical abuse as long as I can remember, but the sexual abuse started when I was about 8-years-old,” Milligan said. “My mother would make me have sex with her, and if I didn’t respond, she would beat me, choke me and throw me from the bedroom. The innocence that every child deserves was taken from me.”
With no other family to turn to for help (what remaining family of his were either junkies or equally as abusive, Milligan explained) and a “deathly fear” of his mother, Milligan had no choice but to keep quiet. He had been subjected to child prostitution, incest and extreme physical brutality before he even knew how to read or write (at age 11, Milligan wasn’t even able to tell time).
“I got made fun of a lot because I was ‘stupid,’” Milligan said. “I couldn’t tell anyone. Not only because of the fear, but because of the shame. My mother was the only parent I had and I just couldn’t admit to what was going on – I felt like it was somehow my fault.”
In places like Thailand where the child sex trade is as prevalent as a dengue-riddled mosquito in the rainy season, Milligan explained that just as many horrific happenings occur in “perfect places,” or rather, highly developed countries like the US and the UK, because “crimes are easier to conceal.”
“The child abuse situation in Thailand is extremely dire, but I think people have a misconception that places like Thailand or India are the only places where this stuff goes on,” Milligan said. “In my opinion, it’s just as bad, if not worse, in the US. I’ve travelled to Southeast Asia to talk about these issues, to share my story and to let people in need know they are not alone.”
Milligan was one of the lucky ones. After finally escaping the clutches of his monstrous mother, Milligan was circulated from foster home to foster home where he suffered from rage and depression. But he persevered and forced himself to self-educate, and eventually landed himself a scholarship to go to college. At the close of his 21-year-long career as an IT executive, Milligan is now focusing on the most important things in life: his son, letting go of his past and giving back to other victims like himself. In recent years, Milligan released a series of novels entailing his terrifying traumas, has been interviewed by talk show legends Oprah Winfrey and Ricky Lake, and has travelled all over the US and Southeast Asia to speak out about child abuse.
“Giving back has honestly been the most healing aspect of my therapy,” Milligan said. “Not overcoming rage, not overcoming denial, not even learning how to forgive – it’s giving back. I would not have survived if it weren’t for all the people that reached out to help me. If I can do the same for someone else, that’s all that matters.”
Milligan most recently visited Thammasat University in Bangkok, where he participated and spoke at a workshop as an advocator for international abuse prevention. Currently back home in the US, Milligan will be returning to Southeast Asia in October and has been invited to speak in Vietnam at HCMC Open University, Ho Chi Minh City International University and The Little Rose Shelter. Milligan said he will also be returning to Chiang Mai, but is still solidifying plans regarding speaking dates and times.
For more information, please visit Milligan’s official website: http://www.godmustbesleeping.com/