Running Head: A CHILD CALLED IT
One Childs Courage to Survive:
A Child Called It
Palo Verde College
This is one of the best, yet saddest books that I have ever read. There are so many bad things out there that are happening to good people. We just have no idea. You never know what is going on behind closed doors. I am so lucky not to have experienced anything like this growing up. There is so much reality in this book, but I never knew that reality was ever this awful. It brought me to a realization that I have never known before. It is extremely sad that something like this really did happen to such a sweet little boy.
A Child Called It is a story based on a real life little boys tribulations with his mothers shocking abuse. The first part of Dave’s life was idyllic in his memory–he says his family was “the Brady Bunch”–a loving mother and father with whom he enjoyed wonderful holidays and a happy trip to the Russian River. Everyone on the outside thought that Davids family was perfect. No one in their neighborhood would have suspected anything was wrong. All that changed when Dave was in first grade. For no known reason, his mother singled him out from his siblings and began abusing him. The abuse began relatively mildly. When he and his brothers did something wrong, Dave was the one to receive punishment–at first simply banishment to the corner of a bedroom. Then, his mother began spending her days watching TV and drinking beer. Easily irritated, she yelled at Dave for the slightest reason, or sometimes for no reason at all. Soon, instead of making him go down to the basement, Mrs. Pelzer smashed Dave’s face against the mirror, then made him repeat, over and over, “I’m a bad boy! I’m a bad boy!” He was forced to stand for hours staring into that mirror. Dave’s father soon joined The Mother, as David called her, in her drinking. He, too, knew David was a “good boy.” He did not join in the abuse, but he did not to stop it, either. David was treated like a slave in his own home. His mother treated him as if he wasnt even a member of the family like a nobody or an It. She first referred to him as, The Boy, then it quickly changed to It. Nobody at his school liked him, they called him “Pelzer Smelzer” because his mom never washed his clothes and made him wear the same thing every day. After school, once Dave completed his chores, he was banished to the basement where he was made to stand until he was called to clean off the dinner table and wash the dishes. If he were caught sitting or lying down, the consequences were further abuse. He had to sit on his hands at the bottom of the stairs for hours on end–always in fear of what worse would happen were he caught moving a muscle.
Davids dad couldnt do anything about it either because he acted like he was afraid of the mother also. His mother did a lot of awful things to him in front of his two brothers, Ron and Stan. She told his brothers that he was a bad boy and he had to be punished. They didnt get any of their moms wickedness or abuse.
Davids mother would starve him days at a time without giving him even a scrap of food. At night as he lay in bed he would say to himself, Maybe tomorrow Ill get dinner. He stole food from stores and the school to survive. He would go into the younger childrens classrooms and steal food from their lunchboxes. He snuck into the cafeteria and stole frozen hotdogs and tater tots. When he got home his mother made him throw it all up into the toilet, scoop it out into a bowl and then eat it again. She even made David eat his baby brother Russells feces. Another incident was when David was cleaning the kitchen floor for his mother. She all of a sudden stormed into the kitchen and started yelling at him. Youve made my life a living hell! she said. Now its time I show you what hell is like! Right after she said that she took him by the arm, turned on the gas stove, and burned the flesh on his arm. She then proceeded to make him take off his clothes and lay on top of the flames. She tortured him for no reason except for her own sick pleasure. The methods of his mother’s abuse were getting really bad. Dave was forced to drink ammonia and was often locked in the bathroom with a concoction of ammonia and bleach and the resulting toxic fumes until he passed out. She would also make him wear tattered clothes, sleep on an old cot in the garage, and she even went to the extent of stabbing him and not taking him to the hospital. The last straw for his teachers was when 12-year-old Dave came to school with no skin on his arms because he had been forced to soak them in ammonia. At that point, several teachers put their jobs on the line and called the police. The day of his rescue, David said the Lords Prayer and prayed for God to save him from his living hell. (A Child Called It, 1995, pgs.1-153)
Davids parents used Authoritarian child rearing practices. Authoritarian child rearing practices mean that the parents make the rules, and expect for them to be followed by the letter, they physically punish for misbehavior, and would rather have obedience than authority (The World of Psychology 2002, p 593.)
Because of his parents influence and neglect, David was a socially withdrawn child. He had no friends, and was probably the least liked among his classmates. His self-esteem was dramatically lowered and he felt that he was a bad boy. The irony through it all was that he still loved his mother and very much wanted to please her and make her happy.
These behaviors are some of the criteria for the diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder:
a.Willing to break the law (A Child Called It, 1995 p. 61)
b.Going along with what his mother told him to do, allowing himself to be manipulated by her.
Before he had even reached his twelfth birthday he had been severely beaten, battered, and bruised. He had no other choice but to steal food being that was his only means of survival. He should have made someone listen to him. He could have gone to the police, a teacher, a neighbor, or just an adult he had met on the street.
Cognitive therapy could have really helped David after he was rescued. His counselor could have helped him to believe that he was not a bad boy. Counselors could have also helped David to realize that he was just a normal boy, and that his mother Roerva was the one with the problem. She was a very sick woman who had a number of problems: drinking, physical and verbal abuse, among many others. The therapist would have taught David to change his interpretations of certain situations from bad to good.
My least favorite character would have to be the mother. She was the worst because she would put the whole family in jeopardy because she didnt know how to deal with her life and her problems. She would beat David right in front of her husband and he couldnt do anything about it. It made me feel like if she really loved her son she would have not treated him with such disrespect, or at least not with such extreme measures. She kept telling David how he was a bad boy but she was the one who was always doing bad things. He never did anything to hurt anyone or anything.
I mean sure he stole food but who wouldnt? All he was doing was trying to survive. The story made me cry whenever Davids family wouldnt help him out when he was being tortured by his mom. The main reason that she is my least favorite character is that she was supposed to be Davids mother, a nurturer, and his provider. All she provided him with was heartache and sad days. Just the fact that she could beat her own flesh and blood was appalling.
The way that David described his mother was also very shocking. He didnt describe her with as much hatred as I thought he would. If I were in that situation I would have described her with so much disgust. David just didnt know any better. He would have sworn on a stack of Bibles as far as whether his mother loved him or not. After she had beaten him one day he told her, I know you love me mother because you brought me into this world, and I love you. I would have been so upset I probably would not have even been able to talk, let alone tell her that I loved her. I liked how David described the setting in this book was so vivid. Its amazing how he can still recall the details of how it felt to sleep in the garage, and how cold it was. He described the things he saw, the pain he felt being there, the smell of his father after he left and even the faint smell of food that he knew he was not going to get. The setting is what made me get into the story, because I had a feel for how his living conditions were and how he really felt.
This book was very well written, educational, but it also dealt with certain realness about specific issues that you dont get reading fictional stories. I had no idea that actual people have been and are going through this rough kind of torture. This book made me have a more open mind to kids that are not always the most popular of well liked. Some people see a filthy person and automatically think that it was his/her own fault for their looks. It isnt always the persons fault for their looks or their actions, they could be in just as much trouble as poor David was in. You never know what is going on at home with that kid that is causing them to look or act a certain way.
If only David had opened his mouth at an early age maybe all this could have been avoided. If only he would have told someone, anyone, maybe he would be better off today. I think the saddest thing about the whole situation is that you never know who is being abused or for that matter who is abusing. A lot of people have problems that can be helped before they escalate into bigger and greater catastrophes. Like for example September 11th, the man who order all that terrible tragedy to happen could have been abused as a child and now look what he went and did. All Im saying is that some thing can be avoided and some cant. A lot of people need to just open their eyes and try to see what is really happening in this world instead of pretending bad things dont exist.
Daves exceptional accomplishments include personal commendations from former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush. While maintaining a rigorous, active-duty flight schedule, Dave was the recipient of the 1990 J.C. Penney Golden Rule Award, making him the California Volunteer of the Year. In 1993 Dave was honored as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Americans (TOYA), joining a distinguished group of alumni that includes Chuck Yeager, Christopher Reeve, Anne Bancroft, John F. Kennedy, Orson Wells and Walt Disney. (Dave Pelzer Biography 2002, Para. 2)
In 1994 Dave was the only American to be selected as one of The Outstanding Young Persons of the World (TOYP), for his efforts including child abuse awareness and prevention, as well as for instilling resilience in others. During the Centennial Olympic games, Dave was a torchbearer, carrying the coveted flame (Dave Pelzer Biography 2002, Para. 2)
American Psychological Association. (2001) Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th ed). Washington, DC: McLaughlin & Reinking
A Child Called It. (1995). Health Communications, INC. Deerfield Beach, FL: Dave Pelzer
The World of Psychology. (2002). A Pearson Education Company. Boston, MA: Samuel Wood & Ellen Green Wood p. 593
Dave Pelzer Biography. (1997-2002) Book Browse LLC, Davina Morgan-Witts, CEO. San Jose, CA. (para.2). Retrieved 04/29/02 from http://www.bookbrowse.com/index.cfm/author/authorID/145.htm
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