2 Books You Should Read to Understand Child Abuse

Featured Illustration: Goncalo Viana


We all want child abuse to stop. It is up to all of us in society to make that happen. If you think the same, then you will love the following books that I would recommend reading for anyone interested in understanding and preventing child abuse in order to create a safer world for children.

A Child Called “It” by Dave Pelzer

“As a child living in a dark world, I feared for my life and thought I was alone. As an adult, I know now that I was not alone. There were thousands of other abused children.” – Dave Pelzer

A Child Called “It” is based on the true story of the author of the book himself. It covers the life of Pelzer from age 4 to 12. As the title of the book suggests, Dave Pelzer talks about how he was brutally abused — emotionally and physically — and starved by his alcoholic mother. The outside world, however, was unaware of the nightmare played out behind closed doors. Despite the severe punishment, he was able to rise above these horrific circumstances and become who he wanted to be.

In this book, Dave Pelzer explains and informs readers about the causes of the tragedy of child abuse, how horrific it is, ways to stop it, and what it’s like through the eyes of the child. Although some readers will find the story unreal and disturbing, child abuse is a disturbing phenomenon that is a reality in our society.

According to Pelzer, child abuse has a domino effect that spreads to all who touch the family. It takes its greatest toll on the child and spreads into the immediate family to the spouse, who is often torn between the child and their mate. From there, it goes to other children in the family who do not understand and also feel threatened.

A Child Called “It” is an inspirational story and shows survivors of child abuse how to find hope, courage, and happiness in difficult times; simultaneously, it educates readers about being conscious of children’s lives.

It is also for the people who hear the screams but do not react, teachers who see the bruises and must deal with a child too distracted to learn, and relatives who want to intervene but do not want to risk relationships. This is more than a story of survival. It is a story of victory and celebration.

The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog by Bruce D. Perry, M.D, Maia Szalavitz

“Because, in order to understand trauma, we need to understand memory. To appreciate how children heal, we need to understand how they learn to love, how they cope with the challenge, how stress affects them. And by recognizing the destructive impact that violence and threat can have on the capacity to love and work, we can come to better understand ourselves and nurture the people in our lives, especially the children.” – Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D., and Maia Szalavitz

The Boy Who Was Raised as A Dog is a book that informs readers about what happens when children are traumatized, how abuse affects a child’s mind, and how they can recover from this suffering. This book is informative, practical, and inspiring. It was written by child psychiatrist Dr. Bruce D. Perry, who has been of great help for children who are genocide survivors, murder witnesses, kidnapped teenagers, and victims of family violence.

In this book, Dr. Perry discusses the stories of trauma and transformation through the lens of science. He reveals the brain’s astonishing capacity for healing. This book is deeply moving and demonstrates that only when we understand the science of the mind can we hope to heal the spirit of even the most wounded child.

In the book, readers meet some of the children who teach the most important lessons about how trauma affects one’s life, and what they need from parents, guardians, doctors, government, and society as a whole if they are to build healthy lives.

“Not all humans are humane. A human being has to learn how to become humane. That process — and how it can sometimes go terribly wrong.” – Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D., and Maia Szalavitz

In the book, the readers meet Tina, whose experience of abuse is observed by Dr. Perry through the impact of trauma on children’s brains; Sandy, age three, had to be put in a witness protection program and teaches readers the importance of allowing children to control aspects of their therapy; Justin shows readers how children recover from unspeakable deprivation; Laura, whose body didn’t grow until she felt safe and loved; and Peter, a Russian orphan whose first-grade classmates became his therapists. In this book, readers find success stories — stories of hope, survival, and triumph.

Dr. Perry talks about the programs and resources that we need to educate parents and professionals about. He additionally outlines how we need to work on our current justice system, foster care system, and child welfare and mental health systems so that they can use evidence-based approaches that at the very least are informed by knowledge about trauma, and reduce, rather than increase, harm.

Both books depict that despite the children’s pain and fear, they have shown great courage and humanity, and they give us hope.

Sania Nasir

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