When speaking about her early life, which was filled with traumatic childhood abuse, Rosie Maloney likes to use one word: Grateful.
“I’m the person I am because of those circumstances,” she said. “Yeah, it stinks, but know that you can make it — you can. … Life is manageable, you just need the tools to do it.”
Today, Maloney lives in Stansbury Park with her husband and three children. She works in Salt Lake City as an account manager for First Digital Telecom, volunteers for several nonprofit organizations and spoils her children.
She loves life, and she works hard to help others be happy too.
Last month, she took a big step forward to helping other people overcome their traumatic experiences by publishing a memoir about her life.
The book, called, “Girl Unbroken: A Sister’s Harrowing Story of Survival from the Streets of Long Island to the Farms of Idaho,” shares in detail what her life was like living with an abusive mother.
Her goal in sharing her story is to give a voice back to all abuse victims who suffered in silence, she said.
Maloney grew up the youngest of five siblings, all of whom were abused by their alcoholic and mentally ill mother. She spent the first 10 years of her life in New York, where for the most part her older sisters were able to shield her from the abuse.
But when her sister Regina finally told a social worker about the beatings her mother repeatedly inflicted, she and her brother Norman were separated from their sisters and placed in foster care.
The foster home was also abusive, but it turned out Maloney and Norm didn’t stay there very long. Their mother kidnapped them from foster care and persuaded a man to drive them to a new home in Idaho.
They eventually settled in a small town in northern Idaho, where their mother moved in with a predator who began molesting Maloney when she was 11 years old.
Although the years she lived in that small town were filled with constant fear, Maloney created safe havens for herself — in school, with friends and in church.
“I love Idaho because of the environment — the people, the town, the horses, the ranch,” she said. “Everything surrounding the [abuse] was great. It was the perpetrators that made it unbearable. … During the six hours of school, I was in reprieve. I loved school.”
Maloney joined every club she could so as to minimize her time at home. In high school, she was on the pep squad, yearbook staff and band. She was also involved in student government, cheerleading, track and basketball.
For a brief time, she also drank and did drugs, trying to cope with all the problems at home. One night she felt so discouraged, she decided she would end her life after school the next day.
But instead of becoming the last day of her life, the next day marked a turning point. It started near the end of her first class, when two teachers pulled her aside to talk.
Maloney recalls that moment in her book: “I liked both of these teachers so much, but I just wanted this moment to be over with. They were about to take away my life and I, in turn, had to end whatever was left of me.”
When the teachers asked Maloney why she was indulging in such self-destructive behavior, Maloney’s habitual silence finally broke. She told the women everything, including her plan to end her own life.
“Telling my story gave me a helium lightness,” she wrote in her book. “It felt like I’d released an unfathomable weight from my body. Just as I’d always needed someone to see my achievements so that I could see them myself, I realized that I needed someone to see the abuse I’d suffered, too. Not so I could see it myself, but so I could see myself separate from the abuse. A whole person in spite of it.”
When her story was done, one teacher, Alaina Linden, was able to offer a way out. She invited Maloney to live with her in a spare room, then went to Maloney’s mother and persuaded her to allow it.
Maloney finished her high school career in Alaina’s house, after which she attended Idaho State University. She was not unmarked by her traumatic childhood; during her junior year of college, she finally collapsed in tears at the counseling center.
After spending a week in a psychiatric hospital, she began working with a psychiatrist. She made gratitude lists to remind herself of the good things in her life. After college, she moved to Utah, where she met the father of her first child, her lifelong friends the Linfords and, a few years later, her husband.
“I’ve lived in Tooele County [almost] 20 years,” she said. “… I’m in a good place.”
While she was pregnant with her second child, Maloney learned her mother had terminal cancer and went to visit her. For the first time, her mother acknowledged the abuse she’d dealt her children and apologized. Maloney forgave her.
“Forgiving my mother was easy because that’s what I needed to do for my healing,” she said. “I feel bad for her, I really do. She didn’t know how to be a mother, because no mother would ever do those things to her child.”
In 2013, Maloney’s sister Regina published a book called, “Etched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island. Regina’s memories about their mother helped many people with similar experiences, and Maloney decided to write her account as a way to help others.
“I had a lot of reservations about putting it all out there, but to get contacted by people who say, ‘I thought I was the only one,’ … I’m grateful that it happened because I’m giving them a voice,” she said. “I love talking to people and sharing my story.”
Since her book was published in October, Maloney has begun receiving invitations to speak at various schools and organizations. Her first formal speaking appointment will take place in Idaho, at the school where Alaina Linden teaches.
“She’s retiring this year,” Maloney said. “It’s kind of a good circle.”