ABOUT THE BOOK
As a counselor working with women who have been abused as children, I find it useful to read books like Punished: A mother's cruelty. A daughter's survival. A secret that couldn't be told. Such stories give me insight into the factors that scar abused children and impair their adult functioning, and provide information about how coping mechanisms are developed. Since many coping mechanisms used by an abused child actually become dysfunctional behaviors in an adult, this knowledge helps me to be more effective in identifying problem behavior and its source, so we can then explore ways to transform dysfunctional coping into healthy adult behaviors.
Before even becoming an adult, Vanessa Steel recognized that her abuse survival strategies had revealed a unique gift. She then managed to transform these coping tactics into resourceful and valuable skills by which she was able not only to help herself, but to actually help others.
You don't have to approach this book from a clinical perspective to appreciate its value. The book not only raises awareness of the horrific consequences of child abuse, it is an inspirational testament of inner strength and survival. Vanessa's story motivates my personal resolve to break the silence that allows child abuse to be perpetuated.
MEET THE AUTHOR
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EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK
When Vanessa found her abusive mother collapsed on the floor, near death, she knew she didn't have much time left to address her suppressed memories of her traumatic childhood. She began to articulate in writing the important questions about why her mother had abused her so cruelly from the moment of birth.
The book then chronicles Vanessa's story of abuse and torture at the hands of her mother. Although there is evidence that the abuse began very early – at 18 months, Vanessa supposedly rolled off the bed and broke her leg – Vanessa's conscious recollections begin at about age two. Her mother was the main perpetrator, but at the age of six, Vanessa's maternal grandfather began to abuse her sexually. The abuse was condoned and aided by her maternal grandmother, and her father remained largely in denial. Vanessa never understood why she was being abused, although when she turned eight she found out she was adopted.
The abuse took diverse and extreme forms: scaldings, beatings, starvation, being regularly left outside in the cold, tied up and left to sleep in the pigsty – all subject to her mother's unpredictable fits of rage. The abuse was not just physical; Vanessa's mother called Vanessa the devil's child and explained the punishments as God's revenge.
Vanessa's brother, Nigel, also experienced abuse at his mother's hands, although to a lesser degree. When he began to experience seizures and was eventually diagnosed with epilepsy, Vanessa's mother blamed her for turning her brother into a devil's child, and held her responsible for accidents that happened. When Vanessa attempted to tell others about the abuse, they either didn't believe her or accepted her mother's "vivid imagination" explanation. This vulnerable child had no one to protect her, no means of escape, and often lost all hope.
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