Victim of incest describes abuse in book

Author who felt need to help others in similar situations to visit the area


Julian Johnsrud had a copy of a book written by his second cousin's wife sitting on a shelf for years.

It's not that he didn't want to read it, but being written in Norwegian complicated the matter some. Now that the book, "Just a Daughter," by Sarita Skagnes, has been translated into English, he's read it several times -- including at least three during the editing process.

"It is a powerful book ... and it was great to finally be able to read it," said Mr. Johnsrud of Toledo.

Mrs. Skagnes arrives in Toledo today after a long flight from Oslo, Norway, to Detroit. She'll spend the better part of a week in the city, talking about the book to various groups and at different stores. Her book tells of the abuse -- mentally, physically, and emotionally -- that the author suffered from the day she was born.

"I wrote this book because I wanted to contribute something to society particularly regarding gender disparity and victims of incest," Mrs. Skagnes said via e-mail." ...I would like people to get knowledge from my story and speeches, and wish they can also get motivated and get strength to do something against violence and help children in need. One person can't help everybody, but everybody together can help somebody and many."

Mrs. Skagnes was born with the name Satwant Kaur in a Punjab, India, village on Jan. 2, 1969. In her book, translated to English earlier this year, Mrs. Skagnes writes that her parents expected her to be a boy, their first son.

The day she was born, "everyone thought I must be ... a daughter of sin. They said, without hesitation, 'Look at her! It is her fault that she is the daughter coming as a curse on her family, such a disgrace."

Her father demanded she be killed and he tried to suffocate her when she was only weeks old, she writes. She recalls countless brutal beatings at the hands of her father, as well as rape and incest, much of it before she ever turned 16.

Eventually, as a young girl, she moved to Norway, where her parents and siblings had relocated to years earlier. There, the abuse intensified and she was again sexually assaulted.

At 20-years-old, she fell in love with a Norwegian man, Alex Paulsen. The two eventually married, despite death threats from her family. Although she was, for a short time, Satwant Paulsen, the new family changed their name again to hide from Mrs. Skagnes' family.

While in Toledo, Mrs. Skagnes will give five talks and sign books, which will be available for $10.

She will appear Tuesday at the Rotary Club of Reynolds Corner, 915 N. Reynolds Rd., at noon, and at the Washington Branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, 5560 Harvest Ln., at 5:30 p.m.. Other appearances are Wednesday at the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition meeting at the downtown Toledo United Way building, One Stranahan Square, at 9:30 a.m.; Thursday at People Called Women Bookstore, 6060 Renaissance Pl., at 5:30 p.m.; and Friday at Grounds For Thought bookstore, 174 South Main St., Bowling Green, at 5:30 p.m.