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The War Zone Message Board - Something Remarkable

Lara Belmont and Ray Winstone in The War Zone.

Thirteen years ago, when the film of my novel The War Zone was released, something remarkable occurred: a film and a book about incest gave birth to an online message board, The War Zone Message Board, intended for survivors of incest and abuse, and all who wished to discuss relevant topics in an empathetic manner.

It is not a fan site for either the book or the film. It is moderated by volunteers - currently two young women called Nath and Norie - who give freely of their time to insure that those who wish to give voice to their feelings, or to find solace or help or support from others, may do so.

Some of the people involved call themselves "zoners," which for me is something quite remarkable and humbling: that a novel I first started thinking about almost 30 years ago, and a film that Tim Roth directed so stunningly 13 years ago, should spawn its own support system for those caught up in the horrifying world we reflected on the page and screen.

The War Zone: 20th Anniversary Edition on Kindle and in print.

Tim recently decided to step back from his involvement in The Zone, as the board is known, and I have become more involved, having originally been unable to participate due to personal reasons that I explained in a post on the board: A New Beginning.

As I wrote in that post, the subject of abuse has never seemed more relevant.

In Britain, where I was born and grew up, there have been extraordinary revelations of alleged child sexual abuse on a truly massive scale by the DJ, charity "crusader" and household name, the late Jimmy Savile – whose abuse of those young women he came into contact with allegedly dates back decades to at least the early 1960s, and involves literally hundreds of victims, including mentally disabled children he worked with at the hospitals he volunteered at.

Already, the Director General of the BBC, for whom Jimmy Savile worked, has been forced to appear before the British Parliament to explain what appears to be a cover-up by the BBC.  There were clearly people who worked with Savile who knew what was happening and yet said nothing, and almost undoubtedly people who acted as “enablers,” helping Savile commit his many acts of abuse.

(For more information about the Savile investigation, please read these two Guardian newspaper articles: Jimmy Savile: Police Heard Seven Sexual Assault Complaints Before He Died and Jimmy Savile Scandal "Frightening Celebrities To Death," Says Max Clifford.)

Lara Belmont as Jessie in The War Zone.

In the US, where I now live, there are equally devastating revelations about child sexual abuse within the Boy Scouts of America, with 20,000 pages of allegations and evidence dating from 1965 to 1985 of literally thousands of cases of sexual abuse.  There is great concern about how the Boy Scouts is responding to these revelations – and about what may have happened since 1985 and the abuse that may be taking place now.

In my own experience, talking to strangers I meet, who, if they learn I am a writer, ask what I have written, the subject of incest and abuse is not as foreign as some would think.

Only two or three months ago, in the quiet, rural, mostly conservative part of California in which I live, I bought gas at a fairly isolated gas station and, somehow, the fact that I am a writer entered the conversation.

“What do you write?” the woman behind the register asked me.

“Well, I wrote a book about incest,” was one of my answers.

I didn’t know how she would respond.  Would she think I had chosen a strange subject to focus on?  Would it in some way offend her religion (this is a very Christian part of the country)?

Instead, she said, “Well, I was abused by my father and so was my sister” – and we started a conversation that explored her personal circumstances, and how, thankfully, her sister was able to avoid her father’s abuse more than she had.

So, incest and abuse of all types continue. We need more openness and education and powerful laws - and most likely new ways of thinking about those laws - to try to address a problem that has been a part of humanity since it began.

The immediate anger and passion, for me, of The War Zone are some way removed from my life now - I wrote the book many years ago, the movie is over ten years old, and my wife and I have two wonderful young children who fill our lives with happiness and peace.

But, particularly as a father, but also just as an individual who cares deeply about society, we all need to be vigilant. Vigilant of the risks of abusers in our midst, vigilant especially of the risks to children and young people, when those closest to them - or those in authority over them - are so often the ones who fail them so devastatingly.

Keep watch and stay safe. And if you are interested, please visit The War Zone Message Board.

(The novel of The War Zone: 20th Anniversary Edition is available on Kindle or in print. Tim Roth's remarkably powerful film of the book is available as a DVD or to stream from Netflix.)


  1. not a week without i dont read this article again. It means a lot for me and this title, the most beautiful and touching compliment we can have and this from you, it means much more, a "thx" seems unsignificant. Take care and deep thx again to have written the WZ book more than 20 years ago. Take care. Never forget you are a gift for us all.


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