When memories turn into nightmares..

Childhood memories for most of us are, cherished, special memories. Memories of a safe, and protected time.

Not so, for some. For some like Dave Pelzer, it was a different memory, the stuff nightmares are made of. I just finished reading, ‘ A man called Dave’, and like all books I read on the subject of Child Abuse, left me sad, and deeply disturbed. The one concept I can never fathom is how parents can abuse their own children, but clearly it happens and it happens much more than we would imagine.

The book itself is quite a positive, hopeful one.  Dave braves a very, very traumatic childhood. He is abused, starved, burnt by his mother in what seemed to be some sort of a ‘game’ for her. His mother used to call him ‘it’, and everything that happened to him was because ‘it’ deserved it.  He escapes when his teachers called in the authorities and he gets fostered. He grows up haunted by what he went through and with the determination to break the cycle. He is determined to never become like his mother, when he learned that children who were abused were more likely to turn into abusers themselves

He, not only overcame everything, he went on to become a wonderful father to his son, and even gave back to the community, by doing volunteer work with abused children and speaking at venues to increase the awareness around child abuse. He tries to be there for his dying father, and even tries to make sense of why his mother did everything she did, all the while, knowing what he never wanted to be.It was a very moving story of a person who overcomes his past, learns from it, and tries his best to ensure that nobody ever has to go through what he went through. He worked through a difficult marriage and when it fell apart, did everything to ensure that his son was not badly impacted by the separation. He talks about how he managed to survive on bare minimum stuff, so that he could save what he could for the times when he had his son with him. He finally finds happiness, love and contentment, a life which is a far cry from his childhood.

The book ends beautifully with a very touching conversation with his son. He talks to Stephen, his son, how things were different in that time. How parents had complete rights over children. He talks about if a parent says ‘Jump’, a child had to ask ‘How High’. Saying ‘no’ was never an option. Reading that it just makes me glad that there is more awareness today. Even if it means that in some countries parents cannot beat/smack their children. Surely disciplining a child can be done in other ways. Just as abuse can happen in so many ways. Mental abuse is just as possible, and just as harmful..and much tougher to prove.

Despite the laws, and the improve awareness, we still hear of cases like this but surely, if the laws were not there, wouldn’t things be much worse? Every time I hear of people who say that these things never happened a few years ago, I can’t help wonder if it were just that we were not aware of it. I hear people, even saying that such stuff never happens in India – how can we be so sure? Apparently we, in India, don’t even have a specific law or guidelines that could tackle child abuse. Another report says that 69% of children in India are victims of abuse, 50% being abused by someone they trust.

It scares me when I read books like this.. All we can really do is try to make our child’s childhood as happy and safe as we can – by making them aware,by letting them know about what constitutes abuse and ensuring that they always know that they can come and confide in us, irrespective of what they want to talk about..

27 thoughts on “When memories turn into nightmares..

    • I haven’t read ‘The Child called It’. Wish I had read that and The Lost boy before this one – it is a triology, isn’t it?

      Yes, the stats are really scary.. And I feel the stats really don’t reflect the true scale of the issue..

  1. Oh dear….if Kite Runner turned me upside down like that, what’ll happen to me, if I read this !!!

    Uma, I have read so many books on abuse, and yet , cannot help being shocked each time.. I mean, there are so many demons out there…

    Its so sad the way he is abused – it actually tears my heart to hear his mom call him a “IT” !!! OMG !!!

    Can you even think of it – and there are so many instances where you wish you could grab hold of that woman, and.. I can’t even think of what I would like to do!

    But glad to see its a positive story with hope and thank god he didnt become an abuser himself.

    Is it a true story, Smithu ???

    Yes, it is – he has written a lot of books and he has helped a lot of children too..

    When I told the outlined the story of Kite Runner to my younger daughter…she was shocked and she just couldnt understand the reason for such abuse. Just imagining that children like my daughter, are abused for silly and irrational reasons, all around the world, gives me scary goose bumps…

    Same here, Uma, same here..

  2. they can come and confide in us, irrespective of what they want to talk about.. – Sigh! This is so so important isn’t it. Met many kids who hv been scared to confide in their own parents for the fear of being admonished 😦 😦

    Yes, and for them to know that we will take them seriously, no matter what.. Can you imagine the plight of children who cannot reach out to their parents..for whatever reason..

  3. Child abuse is so scary. Imagine feeling so vulnerable and having absolutely no one to turn to, as the one who is supposed to look after you and take care of you, is instead the one terrorizing. So sad and depressing!

    ‘as the one who is supposed to look after you and take care of you, is instead the one terrorizing. ‘- Exactly.. In this case, he remembers his ‘mommy’ who was once a wonderful mother, and he keeps thinking if he were the one responsible for turning her into a monster. I can’t even imagine how it must feel..

  4. I feel very sad after reading any child abuse…how can mother be so cruel to her own children…its just beyond my limits to think what drives mother to torture child …
    does book capture any reason why mother behaves like this… ?

    • I know.. The book does not give any particular reason. One of the possibilities that Dave says is that she was probably ill-treated by her own mother – although the grandmother denies it.. But the thing is that there is no justification, is there?

  5. Oh Smits..the book must have made for a heavy duty read I’m sure. You’re right, if the laws had been not there, the abuses would have been much worse.

    It was heavy duty reading Deeps. And I could not put it down. It was painful, sad, and yet there was something incredibly hopeful, in the way Dave turns out in the end.. and that I guess must have given hopes to so many who were in a similar situation..

    Smits, I know of a girl, daughter of a very close family friend who was sexually abused by her own uncle for many years. She could not let her parents or brother know because she was threatened of dire consequences by this uncle. I still get goosebumps when I think of what she must have gone through. And to think of all the times we had met her, not even once did she let us get an inkling that she was going through so much.

    Oh my god, Deeps! I can’t imagine it! The poor girl!

    The positive thing is she didnt allow that troubled experience to take control of her life. She learned to come out of it successfully and talk about it bravely. You knwo normally I’d have expected her to be scarred for life and lose all faith in relationships.But none of that happened. She fell in love with a gem of a boy, she even confided in him and told everything about her troubled childhood. And today they are happily married and absolutely smitten with each other.It feel so nice to see a positive outcome like this, Smits 🙂

    That is wonderful to hear, Deeps. She deserves all the happiness in the world after going through all that..And it is wonderful that she met such a supportive man! It is indeed wonderful to read about positive outcomes, I guess it goes to show that people can overcome even such horrific experiences if they have the right sort of support and the will to move on..

  6. I will be totally troubled reading this book. A generation which believed in having complete ownership of their kids and their thoughts and actions. I feel sad. Some people never learn.

  7. I’ve been wanting to read the series…right from a Boy called It to the Man called Dave but I’m worried about how horrific it will be… 😦 And yes, in India, they definitely need more laws to protect children….

  8. Thank you! Like it or not, I often hate reality, and I prefer reading lighter words. I was so close to getting the whole series, but your post came at the right time.

    Though, I somehow get a feeling that it has some positivity attached too…has it?

    • Yes, it does. It is positive in the sense that it shows how David was able to overcome it all, and find it able to lead a fulfilling life again. So I found it incredibly positive, especially in the light of all that he went through..

      Welcome here, Sourav.

  9. Sounds like a must read. Child abuse is such a sad topic. I remember I once read a novel, I think it was by Danille Steele, not sure of the title, but it had this little girl who was abused by her mother. I could hardly read it because my eyes kept welling up 😦 .

  10. having read this book, as well as a number of others, along with a great deal of discussion led me to writing a series of 3 books/true novels that cover my life.
    the 1st is entitled Euclid Avenue Our scars mean something. it chronicles the discovery, at age 4 of my dead little brother’s body floating face down in the bathtub. the subsequent childhood years are filled with parental neglect, deceit,theft and manipulation. full time employment begins at age 12. the teenage years are characterized by experimentation to habits to addictions that culminate in a wager that results in a loveless marriage that ends in divorce and nearly in death. an outrageous conversation leads to an eternal decision which prompts a newly focused life that is lived less than perfectly.
    excerpts on facebook in the photo album. the book is available through amazon, barnes & noble, books & co, books-a-million, bookdaily and many others.

    Welcome here. It must have been so tough for you. I will definitely try and read your book.

    • It is a sad, but hopeful and positive story. This is actually a trilogy – in three parts- Try them all – I am trying to get the previous 2 books now.

  11. That’s so tragic and so very revolting…parents (a mother at that!) abusing their own child! It would be causing so many scars for a lifetime… physical, mental, emotional…
    Am glad that Dave could fight all the odds and emerge as a real hero and winner…
    Amen to that wish, Smitha!

  12. Ohh in India it is considered normal and a parental right if father beats up “naughty” kid even with a belt!! Caning is still done in convents! Hope the society opens its eyes soon and recognizes this evil!

  13. The last few lines sums up everything beautifully.
    Communication and an open mind are so important when it comes to children… Trust is a huge factor as well!

    Trust is the biggest factor! And all we can really do is that.

    Why parents abuse their children is beyond any level of understanding for me… how can anyone be so screwed up?!

    Seriously, me neither. How can anybody do that? But then again, there does seem to be plenty like that 😦

  14. This has been in my list of read for a long time now, another must read book on CSA is Bitter Chocolate by Pinki Virani… its abt CSA in india and it makes u realise so many things

    You know, I have heard so much about Bitter Chocolate, but am just not able to find it here 😦 I need to pick it up the next time we go to India.

    I know 2-3 victims of CSA and to some extent even I was affected by it and its so damn tough to come out it…

    Oh dear, Mon! Hugs! I can’t even begin to imagine how tough it must have been.

    I am a paranoid when it comes to making sure ojas is prevented from all of this

    I can understand and this is one thing I worry a lot about too..

  15. surely child abuse is a bad thing and this books seems to be a motivating one.. Dave character is really great as he take the opposite to the path shown to him in Childhood and makes sure that no one suffers from teh same fate…

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