Typical childhoods consist of toy trucks, lollipops, piggyback rides, and hide and seek. It involves bedtime stories from mom and dad, a day at the park with daddy giving underdogs, and mommy sitting at the picnic table bearing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and ice-cold milk in a thermos. All of these things grant a child a wonderful relationship with their parents, and often lead to good decision making as they develop into young adults and further on. But, typical is not as common as it implies.
Many children in society today are abused not only verbally, but physically as well. Statistics have shown that there are five times more reports of child abuse than victims of drunk driving each year. Not only is child abuse very common in the United States, it also continues to be common all over the world, in all races and all cultures. There is no representative type of household living situation that child abuse occurs in; it is merely the act of neglect from the parent onto the child regardless of wealth, poverty, race, sex, and other characteristics of humans.
In most child abuse cases, the child is often bruised, avoid talking about their parents, and become quiet and protective when asked about their life at home. Taught that their parents are of primary authority, they would never turn their parents in for mistreatment. On average, children would defend their parents. They would pretend that their experiences at home are nothing to worry about, and end up growing older with mental and emotional problems. A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer closely defines these characteristics with utter detail that is heart wrenching and unpredictable.
Dave Pelzer created this autobiography to enlighten the world with his unimaginable experiences with child abuse. His childhood began as a picture-perfect family, much like the Partridge Family, but soon expands into anguish and despair for Dave. He grows and learns that abuse is the way he was destined to be treated, and was more and more tortured by his alcoholic mother, meanwhile latching onto his compassionate father in hopes that he will stay and protect him. My relationship with Mom drastically changed from discipline to punishment that grew out of control. It became so bad at times, I had no strength to crawl away even if it meant saving my life (page 29). This shows how badly Dave was beaten, and how the only affection he received from his mother was when she was neglecting him.
By neglect, the novel explains the living conditions that Dave had to survive with. He was forced to live in the basement on an old army cot, wearing only the clothes that he has been wearing for weeks at a time. Because Mother had me wear the same clothes week after week, by October my clothes had become weathered, torn, and smelly (page 47). In worse cases, Mother refused to feed me (page 49), which lead to Dave becoming prone to thieving food from the lunch boxes of the first-grade classroom. Soon he was unable to do these things for being caught by the principle and existed as The Boy in his family rather than a member with a name. When Daves mother was not neglecting him, this meant torment.
Not only does she torment Dave as a drunken fool, but entirely sober as well. As his little slave, Dave was forced to clean whenever she felt it was necessary to be done. After being stabbed in the stomach by his mother, Dave was being gauzed up by his mother frantically as if showing concern, when suddenly, Mother stood up, washed her hands and told me I now had 30 minutes to finish the dishes (page 88). Daves life was like survival of the fittest. He was stabbed in the stomach just moments beforehand, bandaged, and in a mere thirty minutes, slumped over the sink, the dishes were due.
Besides the beating, Dave was starving. This is another form of harsh abuse that he had to endure and fight his hardest against because it was he versus himself. His mother would not allow him to have any food. At one point, he went ten consecutive days without food, surviving only on water as he watched her dump leftovers into the garbage disposal and lock the refrigerators at night. The cruelest aspect of this is when his mother puts a superfluous plate of leftovers in front of him. She shouts at him that he has two minutes to eat the meal, and just as he was about to devour it like a hungry lion feasting on a gazelle, she snatched it away from him and meanly feeds the garbage disposal for the eleventh night in a row. I knew that to be in possession of food was the ultimate crime (page 110).
The boy not only had to race against time to eat, but was locked in the bathroom with fumes of the cleaning products interrogating his throat and lungs. Compulsory consumption of cleaning products, such as the ammonia in the mop bucket made Dave a delusional wreck. Cleaning wasnt nearly the only event that kept him in the bathroom. His mother shoved him in a bathtub filled with cold water and urged him to stay submerged for hours. It afflicted him because he did not understand why. All of the things he was forced to do, he could not see why he was the only one in the family that was disrespected and maltreated. His brothers would often go in the bathroom during these incidences and glared at him, as if it was his own fault that he was in the situation he was in. Nobody felt that Daves mother was wrong. It continued to be the same things day after day after day.
For years, his mother intimidated Dave. Even when he went to school and succeeded in class, and made the newspaper for being one of the top pupils, she would not treat him any better. In fact, she would treat him worse. Get one thing straight, you little son of a bitch! There is nothing you can do to impress me! Do you understand me? You are a nobody! An It! You are nonexistent! You are a bastard child! I hate you and I wish you were dead! Dead! Do you hear me? Dead! (Page 140) From this point on, Dave realized that it was not just a game anymore, it was actual hatred from the depths of her heart and soul. She was not just beating him, but she got pleasure from doing so.
The sick mind of the mother makes me wonder what could possibly make her act in this way, especially towards her own son. It is even more of a confusing matter considering she did not treat her other two children in this manner. They were both boys, and both had the same interests that Dave had. What made Dave different? Thoughts that constantly went through my mind as all of the horrible things were happening to Dave as time went on. Specifically, why wouldnt Dave tell anyone? I can understand that at one time his parents were both very good to him, but he could have stopped the abuse much earlier. He obviously grew to hate her, so why didnt he want to ruin her life as much as she did to his? The fact that the brothers saw everything happening and made it seem like it was normal punishment was beyond belief as well. Lastly, how come the father could not take control of the situation, when clearly he did not like what was going on? The sole reason he left the family was because he was unable to deal with the mother any longer. Every time he left, it was obvious that he dreaded coming back, but only did for fear that his son might die. My feelings towards this book were outraged, especially knowing that if I were in this situation, whether in the brothers, the fathers, and even Daves shoes, I would get help immediately; however, it is evident that the children grew up this way and had no idea that they would not be in trouble for the mistreatment of the mother upon her son.
All of the things mentioned are brief aspects of the life that Dave lived. There were many other disgusting and insane events that occurred from time to time by way of his mother; these were to name a few. Finally, after being viciously thrown into an unstable state of mind, Dave was finally capable to begin rehabilitating his mind. The past eight brutal years of dealing with abuse finally ended as he was placed into a foster care unit.
As an adult, Dave Pelzer wishes to write his books in order to be informative of the risks of child abuse and to teach them to never hold back from getting help if necessary. The book is shockingly repulsive and heartbreaking, but it is definitely a book that everyone should read. It teaches morals, especially to promote the quote by Plato, be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle. In conclusion, be aware of the people around you, because a common symptom of child abuse is that they will never tell if they are being abused. Luckily for Dave, from zero to hero, he was able to move on and share his stories with pride, leaving everyone feeling blessed to have the loving family and friends they have acquired.