Never a Hero to Me by Tracy Black

Tracy Black is the pseudonym for the author who writes about her childhood of abuse. Tracy was just 5 years old when her mother got hospitalized and her father uses the opportunity to abuse her.

She was told to be the ‘woman of the house’ because her mother was not around. She is made to do the housework, and subjected to sexual abuse by her father. Hers was a dysfunctional family, with no real affection between her mother and father. Her mother seemed unconnected with her daughter, while she was extremely protective towards her older son. Whatever Tracy did was wrong in her mother’s eyes. Approaching her mother with what her father was doing to her was out of question.

She remarks how even her teachers did not pick up on the clues. Her father used to make her do all the house work – including washing and dying clothes. More often than not, she turned up in school in smelly clothes, but none of her teachers raised any concern, especially as her condition did improve when her mother was around and she was always well-turned out until her mother got hospitalized.

Her father was in the British army, and they relocated quite a few times. None of the moves made any real difference to Tracy’s life, with her father abusing her, whenever he got a chance. From the age of 5 till she was twelve, abuse carried on. Her father used to call her a ‘prostitute’. She recounts how once her teacher was talking about ‘Protestants’, and she got up and told her proudly that she knew what that was, ‘I am one, My father calls me a prostitute’. Sadly, even this went unnoticed.

As she grew older, she resorted to bad behaviour outside home in an effort to get attention. At one point she told a social worker, who refused to believe her. By this time, her father had started ‘loaning’ to his other paedophile friends by sending her to baby sit their children. She even gets abused by her own brother.

Finally one Commanding Officer listened to her, believed her, and helped her get away from the hell that was her home. She gets sent to a boarding school that the army paid for her.

The author says

I know I’m not the only child who suffered these horrors, but if in writing this I can reach out to even one person and that them what I’ve learned, it will be worth it. It is never the child’s fault. There is nothing you can do that makes abuse something that you deserve.

She goes on to say, ‘ Some people complain that books like these are distasteful. I think raping children is distasteful.’ Can’t really dispute that, can we? The book is written in a very straightforward manner, without overly graphic descriptions, while ensuring that her confusion and pain comes through. A little girl forced to do things which she has no way of understanding, being told that the only way her mum can get better is if she is a ‘good girl’ for her father. And her confusion when no matter how obedient she was, her mother still continued to be ill, and still showed no love towards her…

How was the book? Depressing, upsetting, heart-wrenching. Makes you sick to think that someone could do things like this to their own children. Reading this is not pleasure, but for me books like these is a reminder that we can never be sure of where the danger lurks. That our precious children can be at harm from almost any quarter. Child abusers are regular people, even respected people, ordinary people, who don’t carry badges or ‘looks’ that set them apart.

In the author’s words,

They don’t have ‘evil’ stamped on their foreheads, they don’t carry placards proclaiming what they are. They hide and stay hidden. They are among us and they are very, very clever.

All we can really do is be alert, educate our children, be ready to listen to them and let them know that they can approach us with anything.

A book(like many others) that needs to be read, just so that we are parents don’t get complacent, in my opinion. I have heard people believing that these sorts of things never happen in India, but a read through the Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Blog is enough to understand that perverted people exist everywhere.

While this book might have been situated in the West, things like this happen everywhere.

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..