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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: abuse, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Improve organizational well-being and prevent workplace abuse

By Maureen Duffy


What do we mean when talk about workplace health and well-being these days? How well are we doing in achieving it?

Traditionally, the notion of employee health and well-being was about protecting workers from hazards in the workplace and insuring physical safety. From this early focus on the physical safety and health of workers, the concept of workplace health evolved to include the protection and promotion of personal physical health and well-being. Corporate wellness programs emphasizing health promoting behaviors like smoking cessation, weight loss, exercise and nutrition, and management of chronic diseases like diabetes fall into this category.

More recently, the idea of employee health and well-being has evolved to include protection and promotion of the psychological safety of workers, the sustainability of the organization itself, and active participation in health promotion of the local community. The World Health Organization developed a definition of workplace health and well-being that includes all of these dimensions. Grounded in research, it defines a healthy workplace as: “one in which workers and managers collaborate to use a continual improvement process to protect and promote the health, safety and well-being of all workers and the sustainability of the workplace by considering the following, based on identified needs:

  • health and safety concerns in the physical work environment;
  • health, safety and well-being concerns in the psychosocial work environment, including organization of work and workplace culture;
  • personal health resources in the workplace; and
  • ways of participating in the community to improve the health of workers, their families and other members of the community.”


The World Health Organization’s is not the only definition of workplace health and well-being but it’s a good starting point for conversation.

Who are clinical social workers?" ACSWA. Photo Courtesy of Maureen Duffy.

“Who are clinical social workers?” ACSWA. Photo Courtesy of Maureen Duffy via iStockphoto.

Employee health and well-being, especially psychological and emotional health, could be faring a whole lot better than it is. To start with, the Gallup Organization, in its most recent worldwide survey of employee engagement found that only 29% of North American employees were engaged, and this low number represented the highest rate of engagement among all regions of the world surveyed. That leaves 70% of North American employees unmotivated and disconnected, to some degree or another, from their work and workplaces. Add to widespread lack of engagement the results of the 2014 Workplace Bullying Institute’s US workplace bullying survey indicating that 27% of Americans surveyed had personally experienced repeated mistreatment and abusive conduct at work and an additional 21% reported witnessing it. Especially from the perspective of psychological heath, well-being, and safety, the findings from these two recent surveys paint a gloomy picture and suggest that modern organizational life is in trouble.

A helpful way of improving psychological health, well-being, and safety in the workplace is through the implementation of guiding principles to make the organization more resistant to workplace bullying, mobbing, and abuse. These principles are values-driven, action-oriented, and structure-sensitive.

Guiding Principle #1: Place values like empathy, respect, and ethical communication at the center of organizational life.

  • Empathy is the lens through which co-workers, customers and people served, and complex situations are viewed. What does this situation mean for this person or these people? What is it like to be this co-worker, this manager, this customer, this patient, this student, this teacher, in this situation, and what can this organization do to improve the experiences for each of them? Such deep empathy guides problem assessment and solution-building. The design and innovation company, IDEO is a wonderful example of a company that is built around the value of active empathy.
  • Respect is the value that guides how we treat each other, acknowledge each other’s presence, and recognize each other’s contributions to fulfilling the organizational mission. Practicing respect also allows for embracing diversity and accepting differences. Some work futurists who want to embrace the power of diversity to push innovation and solution-building endorse moving away from consensus models toward dissensus models. In dissensus models, hidden, differing, or even critical perspectives about an organizational situation or challenge are actively sought and gathered. Dissensus models take outlier views into account, thereby including all viewpoints, thus avoiding some of the pitfalls of consensus-building and groupthink. While respect as a value is written into many organizational mission statements and codes of conduct, it is worth remembering what the cybernetician and organizational theorist, Stafford Beer, cautioned; namely, that a work system is what it does (not necessarily what it says it does). Whether respect is actually practiced as a value in an organization shows up in how people both talk about one another and act toward one another.
  • Ethical communication brings together the values of empathy and respect and is the single most important way of aligning these values with behavior to reduce and prevent mobbing, bullying, and other forms of workplace abuse. Ethical communication offers a map for how to talk with others when they are present and how to talk about them when they are not. Ethical communication in the workplace excludes gossip, backstabbing, shunning and ostracizing, applying pejorative labels about the personalities or personal lives of others, and shutting people out of critical information loops necessary to do their jobs. Ethical communication includes transparency and openness among all organizational members irrespective of rank. The late Michael White, a renowned narrative therapist, adhered to a principle of ethical communication in conducting therapy that, if applied within organizations, would go a long way toward reducing workplace abuse, mobbing, and bullying. The principle that White rigorously adhered to was only talking about clients in their absence as he would in their presence—no matter who the third party was or how influential or powerful. Imagine how different and how much psychologically safer organizational life would be if everyone in the organization adopted Michael White’s principle of ethical communication!


Guiding Principle #2: Keep an action orientation toward the mission, tasks, goals, projects, and purpose of the organization.

In other words, this principle is about doing the work of the organization at full throttle every day. The work of the organization is not the perpetuation of the organization despite appearances to the contrary in a number of cases. The work of the organization is to provide goods and services that benefit and please end-users while inspiring those involved in their creation and production. Workers who are inspired, active, and involved are much more likely to work with each other rather than against each other as happens in workplace bullying, mobbing, and abuse.

Guiding Principle #3: Pay attention to structure sensitivity and how the organizational structure impacts the productivity of the organization and well-being of its personnel.

Suggesting that organizations pay attention to their own structures and modify or change them when they no longer seem to serve either the end-users or organizational members might seem like a tall order. But it’s a tall order that’s catching on. Zappos, an online shoe and clothing store with over 1,500 employees, is abandoning hierarchy, bosses, and management as we have come to know it in favor of a non-hierarchical, distributed system of power called Holacracy. Other companies are already using the Holacracy model and still others are utilizing structures that rely on networks and self-organizing systems rather than on bureaucracy and hierarchy. Traditional hierarchical organizational structures rely on outdated methods of control that are authoritarian in nature, even when benignly so, and emphasize obedience, conformity, and punishment. Caring for the psychological health and well-being of employees and, indeed all organizational members, may in the final analysis include serious attention to organizational structure and the possibility of structural change. Such structural sensitivity and change may also be required to rid our workplaces of bullying and mobbing and their destructive effects on the individual and the organization.

The news about organizational life and about emotional and psychological well-being within organizations is not good. Creating organizations that are more humane and that are inviting and exciting places to spend so much of our time is worth our biggest thinking and our willingness to dare to make them better.

Maureen Duffy is a consultant about workplace and school issues, including mobbing and bullying, a family therapist and educator and is the co-author of Overcoming Mobbing: A Recovery Guide for Workplace Aggression and Bullying and Mobbing: Causes, Consequences, and Solutions. Read her previous blog posts.

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2. Tracking the evidence for a ‘mythical number’

By Heather Strang, Peter Neyroud, and Lawrence Sherman


There is a widely-repeated claim that victims of domestic abuse suffer an average of 35 incidents before the first call to the police.  The claim is frequently repeated by senior police officers, by Ministers, by government reports, by academics and by domestic abuse victim advocates.  It has certainly influenced police behaviour in deciding how to deal with domestic abuse calls.  Police are required to justify the proportionality of their arrest decisions, so if 35 were the right number in a presenting case, arrest will always be seen as proportionate: after all, culpability may not be clear this time but there have probably been at least 34 priors.

Domestic violence

The question arises: where did this claim come from? Tracking down the evidence for this number proved to be an interesting chase back through publications over the past thirty years.  Repeatedly, publications cite the number with no reference to specific research demonstrating the finding, only to other publications citing the number.  Finally we traced an obscure Canadian government report about a 1979 study in a small city that reported on 53 women who had experienced domestic abuse to which police had responded.  These 53 were interviewed two years after the incident and represented 24% of all victims the researchers had sought to interview, a worryingly small response rate with a high risk of sampling bias.  They were asked how many times they had been assaulted prior to this particular call, from their earliest recollection until two years previously (a very difficult question to answer accurately): they were not asked how many times they had been assaulted before calling the police for the first time.  The women had a wide range of responses to the question, from zero to 312, and the average (not the median or the mode) was calculated to be 35.  Furthermore, these women reported being assaulted an average of three times in the two years after the incident – a number difficult to square with the reported average of 35 over an unspecified time period when police may or may not have been called for any or all or none of the prior incidents.

So 53 Canadian women, whose domestic abuse came to police attention in 1979, bear the entire weight of the claim so widely – and increasingly – relied on.

Domestic violence is a very serious problem for our society. Effective prevention and criminal justice interventions need the best data. We are certain that many women suffer years of misery before the police are called.  Some, perhaps most, may never call.  But we do not help by citing unreliable numbers about their suffering.  To cite a number as exact as ‘35’ lends a veneer of precision which is false and misleading: a ‘mythical’ number that gives the impression that governments, academics, police and the public generally know a lot more than we actually do.  We submit that mythical numbers need to be defeated by evidence-based discussion, informed by real data.  Victims of domestic abuse deserve no less when we discuss how best to help them.

Peter Neyroud CBE QPM is the editor of Policing, A Journal of Policy and Practice, and Resident Scholar at the Jerry Lee Centre for Experimental Criminology, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge, Dr. Heather Strang, is the Deputy Director of the Jerry Lee Centre for Experimental Criminology, and Deputy Director of the Police Executive Programme, Professor Lawrence Sherman, is the Wolfson Professor of Criminology, Director of the Institute of Criminology, Director of the Jerry Lee Centre for Experimental Criminology, and Director of the Police Executive Programme, University of Cambridge.

The full article will be available this June in Policing, A Journal of Policy and Practice, volume 8.2. This  peer-reviewed journal contains critical analysis and commentary on a wide range of topics including current law enforcement policies, police reform, political and legal developments, training and education, patrol and investigative operations, accountability, comparative police practices, and human and civil rights.

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Image credit: Stay away. By Roob, via iStockphoto.

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3. Love Letters to the Dead - Review


Publication date: 1 April 2014 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux BFYR
ISBN 10/13: 0374346674 | 9780374346676


Category: Young Adult Fiction
Keywords: Contemporary, Realistic, Abuse, Grief, Epistolary
Format: Hardcover, eBook
Source: ARC from Publisher


Synopsis:

It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was; lovely and amazing and deeply flawed; can she begin to discover her own path.

Alethea's Review:

Part school assignment, part confessional, Love Letters to the Dead introduces the reader to Laurel, a pensive girl whose older sister May, her de facto role model and idol, is dead; her family life has shattered in the wake of tragedy. For much of the book, the reader can only guess at how May died; we get the impression that Laurel witnessed the incident. But was it murder, suicide, or an accident?

Dellaria's writing style hovers on the edges of magical realism as Laurel struggles with memories she can't or won't recall. On the surface, it's the voice of a young girl with major emotional issues trying to cope with the already baffling struggles of puberty and the social lives of high schoolers. She lives part time with her aunt so that she doesn't have to attend the school that May did. She tries on parts of May's wardrobe and personality, but cannot move forward without examining her own guilt over her sister's death. She writes to the celebrities that May held in high esteem and tells them what she cannot bring herself to tell the the parents and teachers who have tried to reach out to her (some of these people even seem to have given up). The writing exercise forces her to get to the dark heart of her sadness, and the secrets she reveals are painful both to herself and the reader.

I found this novel deeply moving and well-written. At one point I felt the story begin to unravel with so many different sub-plots tugging at the seams: Laurel's crush and his connection to the world she was trying to leave behind, her two best girl friends exploring their sexuality--sometimes with each other, and her adult family members too busy dealing with their own baggage to take much care of Laurel. Ultimately Dellaria pulls it all together, threading the stories back through each other in a pensive tale of grief and hope. This lyrical coming-of-age novel melds family drama with historical and pop culture references to create a story that is touching, melancholy, and bittersweet.

*Please note that this post contains affiliate links. For more details, please see our full disclosure policy here.

**I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.


Find out more about the author at www.avadellaria.com and follow her on Twitter @avadellaria.

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4. New Phone App Helps You Get Safety & Tell Your Location

As a survivor of incest and ritual abuse (cults), I always wanted to be saved while I was being abused. But how could I tell anyone when my life was being threatened? I was too afraid to speak aloud (they said they’d kill me if I talked). The one time I phoned a crisis line, I whispered, and it was a fast conversation. But there’s a free app now –Circle of 6–that *might* have helped me–and that I think could help a lot of children, teens, and adult women (or men) in danger, especially from something like date or stranger rape, or assault. (I think it’s harder when it’s your parents abusing you.) This app sends a text message to six friends that you pre-arrange to be your safety people, letting them know your exact location (through GPS). Depending on what you’ve decided ahead of time, this could get your friends to come pick you up, or call you to interrupt an uneasy situation or to check in on you.

There is also another app, Bipper, and Bipper For Kids, that does a similar thing.

I think these apps may help protect a lot of women and kids in danger, and help to save lives (and prevent trauma). They are also being used by people with Alzheimer’s, and even people going on long hikes or rides by themselves. Of course, you have to choose your safety people carefully. But if you have people you trust, this can help a lot.

I wish I’d had this app when I was a child and teen–though since I didn’t have anyone safe around me (cults make sure that doesn’t happen), it wouldn’t really have helped. But I can see it helping a lot of people today. The characters in my books could sure use these apps. And many of the teens who write me could have, to.

If you think these apps are useful, I hope you’ll let your friends know. We need everything we can use to help ourselves and others be safe.

Update: It looks like neither app is available for Android phones–which is what I have. BUT there are some other women’s safety Android apps. A list of safety apps for Android, iPhone, and Blackberry is here.

Some safety Android apps:

bSafe (for Android, iPhone, and Blackberry) Sends an emergency message to your chosen contacts via text with your GPS location, and one contact will call you. You can also program a fake call to you to interrupt an uneasy situation.

Guardly (for Android, iPhone, and Blackberry). Fast way to connect to your family, friends, and 911 if you’re in danger, and help them reach and locate you. You can specify exactly what the emergency is, such as “peanut allergy,” “walking home alone,” “stroke.” (Though for some reason this version isn’t compatible with either my Android phone or my tablet.) There are both a free and a paid version–the paid version connects you up to 911. (I personally think this service should be free–but I didn’t create the app.)

I Am Safe which notifies your location to your partner or parent.

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5. Don’t Feed The Boy by Irene Latham

5 Stars Don’t Feed the Boy by Irene Latham Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin Pages:  288     Ages: 8 to 12 ……………………. Back Cover:  No kid knows more about zoo life than Whit. That’s because he sleeps, eats and even attends home-school at the Meadowbrook Zoo. It’s one of the perks of having a mother who’s the [...]

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6. Sketch for The Boy In The Leaves; a short story

This is a sketch for a short story called, The Boy In The Leaves, which will be in my short story collection: SHORT STORIES AND OTHER IMAGININGS FOR THE READING SPOT.


In the story, two boys stumble on a horrible truth about child abuse.

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7. #506 – Windsor the Bullied Wooly Mammoth by Keith Lohnes & Linda Manne

woolly mammoth.

Windsor The Bullied Wooly Mammoth

by Keith Lohnes

Linda Manne, illustrator

978-0-98949110-5     8/13/2013

Age   6 to 9     72 pages

Amazon Author Description (unedited)

“Walking home from school alone, Windsor the Wooly Mammoth was startled to hear the shouting. Looking up, peering at him from a stone perch, was a mean Tyrannosaurus Rex named Trevor. At that moment, Windsor discovered the shouting was directed at him. The cruel words poked like tiny pins all over Windsor’s body. Why would someone say cruel things to me? I haven’t done anything to him! Windsor did his best to scurry away as fast as possible while all of his friends at school looked on in astonishment. Feeling trapped, alone and isolated, Windsor was confused at Trevor’s behavior. The story takes a turn when Windsor’s best friend Marvin steps into (sic) help. Marvin was concerned that Windsor did not know how to deal with Trevor’s bullying. Being a quiet, shy Mammoth, Windsor didn’t want anyone to know what was happening. Marvin knew better. Identifying the bully and immediately dealing with the events is the only way to make it stop. So Marvin enlisted the help of his friends and went to speak to Trevor about his bullying. In the beginning Trevor was very defensive. Over time however, Trevor began to understand that being a bully made him look bad and treating others poorly was not good for himself or anyone else. As the story and the characters evolve, bullying becomes evident. The resolution is for everyone to come together to prevent the behavior. In the end, Trevor discovers Windsor is a pretty nice Mammoth and they become great friends.”

Opening

“All the other Dinosaurs liked t play in the field after school, except for Winsor the Wooly Mammoth.”

The Story

Windsor loved to read so much that instead of playing with friends after school he reads. On the way home from school, Trevor yelled mean things at Windsor, called him names and threatened to knock his glasses off his face. Windsor was “a geek” because “all you do is read.” Windsor ignored Trevor, but still felt frightened. Trevor’s words and his taunting made Windsor feel bad about himself. The other young dinosaurs said nothing to Trevor. Some even laughed along with him. No one did a thing to help Windsor.

1

Everyone knew Windsor liked to read Jurassic Book, a dinosaur social network. Trevor went on the website and wrote mean things about Windsor and Betty Brontosaurus. None of what Trevor wrote was true. Soon dinosaurs who did not know Windsor wrote bad things about him. When he found out, Windsor knew the others would believe the lies. Windsor became so despondent that he no longer wanted to live.

Marvin, Windsor’s best friend, told him to tell someone about Trevor’s bullying. Windsor did not want anyone to know. Marvin went to Betty Brontosaurus for help. Betty talked to all the other kids and explained that what Trevor did to Windsor was mean, hurtful, and wrong. Then Betty talked to Trevor. Trevor responded to Betty by laughing and refused to stop bullying Windsor. Marvin would not give up. He decided to gather all the kids and confront Trevor as a group. Would it help? 

Review

Windsor the Bullied Wooly Mammoth is a cautionary tale about bullying. The bullied kid is different from the other kids. He likes to be alone and read. One dinosaur, Trevor, decides to bully Windsor. Marvin, who is a mouse and Windsor’s best friend, assumes Trevor is lonely because his meanness meant none of the other dinosaurs would play with him. Bullies often are not lonely people or dinosaurs. Kids gathered around Trevor and he considered a few of them friends. I think this missed the mark—in this story—but the author is true when saying bullies are often lonely kids. Most often, though, it is the bullied kid who becomes lonely and alone.

3

The text is long. Little kids will have a tough time keeping their attention on the story. The story needs tightened to reduce redundancy, correct punctuation errors, and help the story move along smoothly. Plus, a credit page needs added to the front. Before—on occasion after— a character speaks, the narrator explains what the character will say and why. This happens so often it becomes annoying. It is not necessary to alert the reader to what the character will say or why and then have the character repeat, sometimes verbatim, what the narrator just explained. I felt like the narrator did not trust that readers would catch on to the story.

Betty also explained that she wanted to get to know Trevor a little better.

Betty smiling at Trevor said, “And one other thing Trevor, I would like to get to know you a little better. Most of us don’t know you very well either.”

There were many books about bullies last year and more on the way this year. Windsor the Bullied Wooly Mammoth may be the most ambitious. Usually, we learn about the bullied, how they are bullied, and what to do about that bully. Windsor the Bullied Wooly Mammoth also lets us know how those witnessing the bullying, but not part of it, feel and how they can help, plus why the bully acts as he or she does. Every angle is covered.

2

The large sized book has great illustrations on one-half of the spread. The dinosaur and the mouse are cute with their big bright eyes. The dinosaurs have cherry-bright tongues and have different colored complexions. Windsor is the only one to wear eyeglasses and look geeky. He really is out of place in this dinoland. Kids will enjoy the illustrations. The art draws your eye to that side of the spread every time. The back of the cover has a laughing Trevor with the words, “Bullies aren’t born . . . bullies are made!”

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Learn more about Windsor the Bullied Wooly Mammoth HERE.

Buy Windsor the Bullied Wooly Mammoth at Amazon—B&N—Createspaceask your local bookstore

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Links for the author, Keith Lohnes:         blog     facebook      createspace

Links for illustrator, Linda Manne:     flickr     freelanced

WINDSOR THE BULLIED WOOLY MAMMOTH. Text copyright © 2013 by Keith Lohnes. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Linda Manne. Reproduce by permission of the author, Keith Lohnes.

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windsor wooly mammoth

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Filed under: 4stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Picture Book Tagged: abuse, being bullied, bullies, children's book reviews, dinosaurs, Keith Lohnes, Linda Manne, picture book, wooly mammoths

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8. Unlearned lessons from the McMartin Preschool case

By Ross E. Cheit


It was the longest criminal trial in American history and it ended without a single conviction. Five people were charged with child sexual abuse based on extremely flimsy evidence. Some parents came to believe outlandish stories about ritual abuse and tunnels underneath the preschool. It is no wonder that the McMartin Preschool case, once labeled the largest “mass molestation” case in history, has come to be called a witch-hunt. In a commentary to a Retro Report in the New York Times earlier this month, Clyde Haberman, former Times reporter, repeated the view that the McMartin case was a witch-hunt that spawned a wave of other cases of “dubious provenance.” But does that description do justice to the facts?

A careful examination of court records reveals that the witch-hunt narrative about the McMartin case is a powerful but not entirely accurate story. For starters, critics have obscured the facts surrounding the origins of the case. Richard Beck, quoted as an expert in the Retro Report story, recently asserted that the McMartin case began when Judy Johnson “went to the police” to allege that her child had been molested. Debbie Nathan, the other writer quoted by Retro Report, went even further, asserting that “everyone overlooked the fact that Judy Johnson was psychotic.”

Both of these claims are false.

Judy Johnson did not bring her suspicions to the police; she brought them to her family doctor who, after examining the boy, referred him to an Emergency Room. That doctor recommended that the boy be examined by a child-abuse specialist. The pediatric specialist is the one who reported to the Manhattan Beach Police Department that “the victim’s anus was forcibly entered several days ago.”

Although Judy Johnson died of alcohol poisoning in 1986, making her an easy target for those promoting the witch-hunt narrative, there is no evidence that she was “psychotic” three years earlier. A profile in the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, published after Johnson died, made it clear that she was “strong and healthy” in 1983 and that she “jogged constantly and ate health food.” The case did not begin with a mythical crazy woman.

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Retro Report also disposed of the extensive medical evidence in the McMartin case with a single claim that there was no “definitive” evidence. But defense lawyer Danny Davis allowed that the genital injuries on one girl were “serious and convincing.” (His primary argument to the jury was that much of the time that this girl attended McMartin was outside the statute of limitations.) The vaginal injuries on another girl, one of the three involved in both McMartin trials, were described by a pediatrician as proving sexual abuse “to a medical certainty.” Were the reporter and fact-checkers for Retro Report aware of this evidence?

None of this is to defend the charges against five (possibly six) teachers in the case. Nor is it an endorsement of claims, made by some parents, that scores of children had been ritually abused. Rather, it is a plea to treat the case as something that unfolded over time and the children as individuals, not as an undifferentiated mass. As it turns out, there are credible reasons that jurors in both trials voted in favor of a guilty verdict on some counts. Those facts do not fit the witch-hunt narrative. Instead, they portray the reality of a complicated case.

When the story of prosecutorial excess overshadows all of the evidence in a child sexual abuse case, children are the ones sold short by the media. That is precisely what Retro Report did earlier this month. The injustices in the McMartin case were significant, most of them were to defendants, and the story has been told many times. But there was also an array of credible evidence of abuse that should not be ignored or written out of history just because it gets in the way of a good story.

The witch-hunt narrative has replaced any complicated truths about the McMartin case, and Retro Report, whose mission is to bust media myths, just came down solidly on the side of the myth. It wasn’t all a witch-hunt.

Ross E. Cheit is professor of political science and public policy at Brown University. He is an inactive member of the California bar and chair of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission. His forthcoming book, The Witch-Hunt Narrative: Politics, Psychology, and the Sexual Abuse of Children (OUP 2014), includes a 70-page chapter on the McMartin case.

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Image credit: “Face In The Shadow” by George Hodan c/o PublicDomainPictures. Public domain via pixabay.

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9. The Good Lie (2014)

The Good Lie. Robin Brande. 2014. Ryer Publishing. [Source: Review copy]

The Good Lie is a dark, haunting, compelling story of a broken family. While each member of the family might have their own story to tell, their own version of events, readers get Lizzie Aimes' story. Since Lizzie, at times, questions her interpretation of her family's MESS, it's only natural for readers to entertain a doubt or two as well. Lizzie, when we first meet her, is quite charming. Readers see her preparing for prom with her best friend, Posie. Her younger brother, Mikey, is hanging around. There is some teasing, some laughing. Things seemed so good, so normal. Lizzie's "big" problem is Jason. She really, really, really is falling for Jason, a boy who does not share her value system. In other words, he does not want a girlfriend. He wants lots of casual partners to hook up with. He would LOVE for Lizzie to be one of them. He would LOVE for Posie to be one of them. Lizzie is smart enough to know that feeling the way she does, Jason is just trouble. To be near him, to watch him with other girls, is painful and awkward because she wants it to be her, and, not be her at the same time. Jason, of course, knows that Lizzie has a tender spot for him.

That was her "big problem" before. She returns home from prom to a different situation entirely. Her mom is gone. She's left her husband and her two children. She has admitted that she's having an affair and is in love with another man. This is the catalyst for the BIG, BIG, BIG mess that follows.

Lizzie witnesses her family crumble. She sees her father change, in some ways very dramatically change. She sees the stress on her brother. She feels it herself. But it is her worry--her deep, deep worry for him--that leads Lizzie to ultimately make a life-changing decision.

Throughout the novel, their is a focus on justice, on doing the right thing even if its hard. That is what makes The Good Lie so thought-provoking in a way. Does Lizzie do the right thing? Do the ends justify the means? Can doing something morally wrong ever be the right thing to do? In other words, is there such a thing as A GOOD LIE. There are no easy questions to these questions.

The Good Lie definitely has adult situations in it, it is not a book for younger readers.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. Scars (YA)


Scars. Cheryl Rainfield. 2010. WestSide Books. 250 pages.

"Someone is following me." I gulp air, trying to breathe.

Kendra has had a hard life. She's in therapy now. And she's trying her best to recover her memories, recover her life. But when the novel opens, she can't remember her abuser. She remembers the abuse--the sexual abuse. But something is keeping her from seeing the face of her abuser. The face of the man who had tormented her for over a decade.

Kendra is convinced that this man is not finished with her yet. She feels that she is being followed, being stalked. That this man is leaving her messages, leaving her threats. Reminding her that if she tells, she'll die.

So yes, Kendra has had a hard life. And her home life is challenging to say the least. Her relationship with her parents is tense. She doesn't get along with either her mom or her dad. Kendra is angry that her mom has failed to support her in many ways. That her mom failed to listen to her as a child the few times Kendra tried to let her mom know she was being hurt. Her mom also has a hard time accepting that her daughter is a lesbian.

One way she copes is by cutting. Cutting herself numbs her emotionally. Whenever she feels overwhelmed, whenever the pain becomes too much, Kendra resorts to hurting herself. Another way she copes is with her art.

While Scars is a fast-paced novel dealing with hard issues, it's also a love story. Kendra has fallen in love Meghan, and Meghan has fallen in love with her. With Meghan she is able to be herself, to talk and have someone really listen, really understand.

Scars is an emotional, compelling novel. Kendra's story is haunting and the threats she faces are all too real. Scars is a book that is hard to put down.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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11. Scars

Scars by Cheryl Rainfield

Kendra has started to remember her abuse as a child, but she is unable to see her abuser’s face in her memories.  She believes she is being followed by her abuser, so she lives in fear that even as she works to remember, he is stalking her.  To cope with the pressure of the memories, Kendra cuts her arm, releasing all of her stress, anguish and pain and making it something she can handle.  Kendra also does amazing art work that reveals the pain of her abuse and the emotional toll it is taking on her.  Her mother, a professional artist, has been critical of the raw emotion of Kendra’s work, so Kendra hides her work from her.  Her father has become emotionally distant after Kendra told her parents about the abuse, so Kendra turns to her therapist, her art teacher, and her new girlfriend for support.  As Kendra’s memories build, readers will be unable to put the book down until all is revealed.

Rainfield, herself a survivor of abuse and cutting, has captured the situation with such power and ferocity that it can be painful to read.  Readers will find themselves in a vise of tension and menace that mirrors Kendra’s.  Rainfield has written a powerhouse of a book that is astoundingly honest and burningly real.  The character of Kendra is written with empathy and skill.  She never reads as a victim but as a heroine, seeking the truth about what happened to her.  The use of her art in the book to connect her to other people, speak when she cannot say the words, and scream for her pain is hauntingly real.

Get this into the hands of readers who enjoy tense, realistic reads.  The cover is beautifully done, capturing the cutting and the tension in a single image.  A brilliant book written in nervy honesty.  Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from library copy.

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12. The Dreamer

Ryan, Pam Muñoz. 2010. The Dreamer. Illustrated by Peter Sís. New York: Scholastic.

The Dreamer is a book that almost defies description.  Is it poetry?  Is it biography?  Is it fiction?  This fictional account of  real life poet Pablo Neruda's childhood is all of these things.  Born Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, he was a shy, stuttering, skinny youngster with a larger-than-life domineering father. Working with Neruda's prose and poetry, along with anecdotes of his early life, Pam Muñoz Ryan invents the thoughts, hopes and dreams of the shy young man who quietly refuses to become the man his father wishes. With beautifully poetic language, she paints a portrait of a boy determined to be true to himself.  This is a book for thinkers and dreamers and poets and all children who yearn to be nothing but themselves.

A better artist than Peter Sís could not possibly have been chosen for this book.  The white spaces of his signature illustrations are filled with symbolism - the image of  the small and frightened faces of Neftali and his sister swimming in an ocean whose shoreline is the outline of his domineering father speaks volumes without words.  Illustrations are abundant throughout the book.

An illustrated, color discussion guide is available from Scholastic. Scholastic also offers this video booktalk, but this is a book that does better speaking for itself. It must be read to be appreciated.

If you've every searched for a story with a calm and caring stepmother, this is that book, too.

Other reviews @
Kids Lit
Dog Ear



Sha

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13. The Last Exit to Normal by Michael Harmon



Ben Campbell's life is thrown into turmoil when his dad announces that he is divorcing Ben's mother, and then chooses a boyfriend! Ben is furious that his dad would destroy their family and plots revenge. If he find trouble, he is there. And he brags about it. Make the old man's life miserable. So what does his father do? Plunks him down into population 400 Normal, Montana. Let the games begin. Did I mention Ben arrives with spiked hair? A real hit in a cowboy community. Soon the plot thickens as Ben discovers that even a town of 400 has some secrets.

ENDERS' Rating: ****

Michael Harmon's Website

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14. Split

SplitSplit Swati Avasthi

Jace's driven through the night, across the country, with blood on his face to reach his brother's doorstep, hoping his brother will take him in.

Jace's father is physically abusive. Jace grew up watching his dad beat the hell out of his mom and older brother. Then Christian disappeared and Jace's father started coming for Jace. Now he's kicked Jace out and he's on his way to find the brother who got out and left him there.

While this book explores how one does or does not escape an abusive situation, what it really focuses on is what happens next. How do you deal with the emotional and physical scars? How do you move on with life knowing that people you love are left behind? How can you get them out? Can you?

First off, Jace's dad is a judge. Major props for making this about a rich family. So often books with problems like abuse or drinking feature characters in a lower socio-economic class. Because they're poor people problems. (Ugh.)

This is a brutal book. Avasthi doesn't spare us the details of the beatings and more. Jace and Christian are broken. Their relationship is broken, and there are times when you don't think that they or their relationship can ever heal.

That said, I couldn't put it down. It's powerful and moving, but plot-wise it also moves really well as it shifts between Jace's life with Christian and flashbacks to Jace's life with his parents.

I wasn't sure about reading this one. It got RAVE reviews, yes, but I knew it was going to be a brutal book and a major downer just from the plot descriptions. And, of course, the better written a book is, the more brutal it's going to be, right? Or at least the more it's going to get to you. But, we were discussing Cybil's winners at book club (this won for YA fiction) AND we put it on the teen notable list for the in-system training I'm co-coordinating so I had to read it. I couldn't put it down. It's just that good. The pacing is impeccable and it moves really quickly, even more so when you consider that it's a book driven by character growth, not plot. Amazing, amazing work.

Book Provided by... my local library

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15. So what do we think? Waking Rose: a fairy tale retold

  WAKING ROSE: A FAIRY TALE RETOLD

 Doman, Regina. (2007) Waking Rose: a fairy tale retold. Front Royal, VA: Chesterton Press. ISBN #978-0-981-93184-5. Author recommended age: 16 +. Litland.com also recommends 16+.  See author explanation for parents at http://www.fairytalenovels.com/page.cfm/cat/116//

Publisher’s description: Ever since he rescued her from Certain Death, Rose Brier has had a crush on Ben Denniston, otherwise known as Fish. But Fish, struggling with problems of his own, thinks that Rose should go looking elsewhere for a knight in shining armor. Trying to forget him, Rose goes to college, takes up with a sword-wielding band of brothers, and starts an investigation into her family’s past that proves increasingly mysterious. Then a tragic accident occurs, and Fish, assisted by Rose’s new friends, finds himself drawn into a search through a tangle of revenge and corruption that might be threatening Rose’s very life. The climax is a crucible of fear, fight, and fire that Fish must pass through to reach Rose and conquer his dragons.

Our thoughts:

It is difficult to capture the essence of this story coherently because it touches upon so many aspects of life. There is the mystery, of course, and continuing depth of family loyalty amongst the Briers. The craziness of those first years experienced when young adults leave their nest and venture into the outer world of college life, whether as newbie freshmen or advanced graduate students. Unlikely friendships as the strong nurture the weak with Kateri mentoring Donna in her mental illness, and Rose guiding Fish through abuse recovery. Fish’s loyalty to Rose, taken to the extreme, becomes unforgiving. But then self-denigration turns into enlightenment and hope.

And after all of that is said, we are left with the relationship of Fish and Rose finally reaching a neat and tidy conclusion :>)

The girls have progressed in the series to young adults. Blanche just married Bear and Rose is off to college. Fish continues in his college program too. Doman shows us the challenges young adults face when they first enter the world on their own, particularly in making friends and exploring crushes. We can imagine ourselves engaged in the chit chat and horseplay typical in budding relationships. Important also is the picture implanted in our mind of courtship.

Throughout the story, we can see the existence of three pillars: faith, family and friends. Whenever one of these pillars is weakened, internal conflict and unsafe situations arise. Maintaining the balance, we see Rose’s keen ability for discernment that has been honed as a result of consistency in faith life, family home “culture, and choice of friends. Her discernment is key to good decisions, keeping safe, etc.

Going beyond stereotypes, the dialogue paints a clear picture of the perceptions held by non-Christians against Christians, countered with a realistic portrayal of the passionate young Christian student. Previous books portrayed ac

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16. The Book Review Club - Waiting to Forget

Waiting to Forget
Sheila Kelly Welch
middle grade

Because of the age of the protagonist, I've tagged this as middle grade, as did the publisher, namelos; however, it seems wise and fair to point out that this is the story of a current day child-survivor of abuse and neglect. This isn't a light read. It's tough. It's a great book for talking through and exploring emotions, but I wouldn't send a child off to read this alone.

Basic plot: T.J.'s little sister, Angela, fell from the second story balcony into the entryway of their new adopted parent's home. While T.J. waits at the hospital to find out if his sister will be all right, he tells their story in flashback. It's a heartrending account of a mother who neglects her children, has a string of boyfriends, some nice and some less than nice, that ultimately lead her to abandoning her kids to follow her man, who has abused the children. The children then cycle through various foster homes until they're adopted. The transition to a new home is difficult, wrought with feelings of guilt and distrust and the fear of loving anyone again.

The story alternates between present tense for the here and now and past for the story leading up to the hospital. For a young reader, changing tense can be confusing. Yet another aspect of the story that makes it well-suited for group reading and discussion.

As I was reading this book, I asked myself many times "what's the point" of a story of this nature. I'll readily admit, I'm sometimes a bit slow in getting it when it comes to gritty fiction about scarring abuse for a young audience. I faced a similar paradox with the aspect of double dead parents in my own middle grade, Dragon Wishes. For me, the theme felt too heavy as a stand alone. Thus I added a second story to the first, a fantasy, that broke up the heaviness of the main, present day story, while intertwining with it to push plot forward. That was my personal choice because the topic, death of both parents, just felt too heavy all by itself for a young audience. In Waiting to Forget, there is no break from reality. The distant past is painful, the recent past is jumbled and painful, and the present is scary painful. Angela may die.

Is this a story worth telling? Absolutely. However, it's probably one that's best read and shared together for the story to have its true effect, i.e. helping children either to cope with abuse in their lives or to understand abuse and its effects on their peers.

For other great reads, hop on over to Barrie Summy's site. They're in full bloom!

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17. What She Left Behind - Review



Publication date: 01 May 2012 by Simon Pulse

ISBN 10/13: 1442439513 | 9781442439511


Category: Young Adult Realistic Fiction

Keyword: Thriller, Death, Loss, Missing persons

Format: Hardcover, ebook


From Goodreads:

"Don't even think of leaving...I will find you," he whispered. "Guaranteed."
Sara and her mom have a plan to finally escape Sara's abusive father. But when her mom doesn't show up as expected, Sara's terrified. Her father says that she's on a business trip, but Sara knows he's lying. Her mom is missing--and her dad had something to do with it. Each day that passes, Sara's more on edge. Her friends know that something's wrong, but she won't endanger anyone else with her secret. And with her dad growing increasingly violent, Sara must figure out what happened to her mom before it's too late...for them both.
Kimberly's review:

I have a confession. I cheated.

So, I'm always giving my one friend a hard time be

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18. Three Times Lucky, by Sheila Turnage

I made a discovery during my committee tenure last year about books I love.  There are books with chops where I delight in the use of language, setting, characterization et cetera, and then there are heartsong books.  You know, those books that you wax poetic about...the ones that speak to you? And every so often, these two things collide into a book that you know will remain a favourite for all of your days.

This is what Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage is to me.

"Trouble cruised into Tupelo Landing at exactly seven minutes past noon on Wednesday, the third of June, flashing a gold badge and driving a Chevy Impala the color of dirt." (p. 1)  Tupelo landing is where Moses (Mo) LoBeau ended up after her mother strapped her to a make shift raft during a hurricane.  She came to stay with Miss Lana and the Colonel and helped them run their cafe.  When local oldie Mr. Jesse turns up dead, Tupelo Landing turns upside down, with Mo and bestfriend Dale  smack in the middle of everything, due to a little bit of borrowing of Jesse's rowboat.

Turnage has managed to pack an awful lot of goodness into this one including a twisty turny mystery, unforgetable characters, family heart-ache, strong girl-boy friendship and memorable turns of phrase.  It is a book that will have readers laughing, wondering and feeling sad in turn.

I was lucky enough to meet Sheila Turnage at ALA in Anaheim and she said that Mo just kept talking to her.  She wanted her story told.  I'm awfully glad Turnage listened to her!

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19. Hear My Roar: A Story of Family Violence by Gillian Watts

5 Stars  Hear My Roar: A Story of Family Violence Author: Gillian Watts; Illustrator:  Ben Hodson Publisher: Annick Press 978-1-55451-201-0 No. Pages: 56  Ages: 6-9 .............................. ........................... It’s summer and Mama, Papa, and Orsa Bear are picnicking in the woods.  Papa tells Orsa how they used to scare animals into traps by roaring.  He challenges [...]

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20. Review: 34 Pieces of You by Carmen Rodrigues

 

Title: 34 pieces of You

Author:  Carmen Rodrigues

Publisher:  Simon Pulse

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

A dark and moving novel—reminiscent of Thirteen Reasons Why—about the mystery surrounding a teenage girl’s fatal overdose.

There was something about Ellie…Something dangerous. Charismatic. Broken. Jake looked out for her. Sarah followed her lead. And Jess kept her distance—and kept watch.

     Now Ellie’s dead, and Jake, Sarah, and Jess are left to pick up the pieces. All they have are thirty-four clues she left behind. Thirty-four strips of paper hidden in a box beneath her bed. Thirty-four secrets of a brief and painful life.

     Jake, Sarah, and Jess all feel responsible for what happened to Ellie, and all three have secrets of their own. As they confront the past, they will discover not only the darkest truths about themselves, but also what Ellie herself had been hiding all along….

Review:

If I hadn’t received a review copy of 34 Pieces of You from the publisher, I never would have read this book, and that would have been a shame, because it is a moving and compelling read.  The subject matter didn’t appeal to me prior to receiving the ARC, and the thought of reading about a girl who overdoses, leaving her friends to grapple with their confusion and hurt, just seemed too depressing for me.  Which makes me wonder why I did pick it up, the same day it arrived in the mailbox.  Why did I start reading this, and why couldn’t I put it down?  What I found between the covers kept me turning the pages; there are so many flawed characters packed into this story, and there were so many opportunities for things to happen differently, but they didn’t.  Everyone is so caught up in themselves, that they all ignored the signals that Ellie was so clearly broadcasting.  Then again, in retrospect, everything is crystal clear, isn’t it?

I don’t want to give away any of the plot twists, so instead, let’s talk about the damaged protagonists in 34 Pieces of You.  It seems that everyone in this book is crying out for help or attention, and even when they get it, they stubbornly dig in their heels and refuse to accept it.  Ellie is so emotionally ravaged, unable to trust anyone, after she is the victim of abuse when she is a young girl. Her mother deals with this betrayal with alcohol.  Emotionally distant from her children, her coping method turns out to be one of avoidance.  Just don’t talk about it, and everything bad will go away.  Just ignore the bad things, and everything will be fine.  Ugh.  I found myself so angry and irritated with her mother.    By pretending not to see how self-destructive Ellie’s behavior was, she added to Ellie’s feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness. Even her own mother didn’t care enough to acknowledge that things weren’t right with her family.  It’s the realization that if only someone had done something, paid the slightest bit of attention to Ellie’s behavior, that makes this story, and the cascading repercussions, so tragic.  Ellie may have ultimately found some peace, but her friends and family were left reeling in the wake of her death, and ouch, not one of them emerged unscathed or unchanged.

Jake, Ellie’s older brother, is left with the most guilt, I think.  After b

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21. Prairie Evers, by Ellen Airgood

Prairie is unhappy when her grandmother up and announces that it's time she moves home.  After all, Grammy is much more than simply a grandmother to Prairie; she is her friend and her teacher as well.  Especially since they moved up to New Paltz, NY from North Carolina.

Prairie's family inherited the farm from her mama's side of the family.  New Paltz is where she grew up, and now the Evers family are trying to make a go of life by living off this small portion of land.  Folks in town seem to have lots to say about this whole situation.

When Prairie and her mama are in town to pick up Prairie's new chicks, her mama leaves her in the malt shop while she runs some errands.  While Prairie is sitting at the counter top, she overhears some women mention her mama's name.  The women go on to talk all kinds of foolishness about her family-- how Prairie probably can't even read and isn't in school -- how her family probably doesn't have two pennies to rub together -- and it is everything Prairie can do to sit put and not give those women a piece of her mind. 

One of those insults, however, is soon unfounded.  Prairie's folks tell her that she has to enroll in school.  Grammy has always taught Prairie before.  They were explorers, learning about things that are interesting.  How can she ever go to a school where she is trapped inside all day?  How can she ever learn to raise her hand when she has something to say?  Or not to blurt out an answer?

School is only made bearable by the one friend that Prairie sets on making.  Her name is Ivy Blake.  She's clearly a loner and a pretty quiet one at that, but Prairie seeks her out and soon they are spending lots of time together, and Prairie actually starts to feel happy.  But as she slowly peels back the layers of Ivy's existence, Prairie realizes that things are not always as they seem.

Ellen Airgood has written a story of family, friendship and loss that while sad in measure is buoyed by an overarching feeling of hope.  Even though Prairie and Ivy are misfits on their own, together they are strong and they even each other out.  Ivy's family story is an intense one and is buffered by the Evers' family's cohesiveness.  There is a Southern feeling to this story despite the setting, and while the idea of the importance of making family is loud and clear, the story never gets eclipsed by it.  Prairie is a strong protagonist and readers are likely to admire her even as they cringe at her adjustments to school life.

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22. Itch

Here is a perfect example of the reason why I love going to the public library to browse books. Yes I get invited to a few previews every year, and yes I try to keep up with the professional journals, but nothing will ever replace browsing a shelf. I am taken with titles and covers and upon reading the blurbs I decide what to check out. On my last trip, I picked up this gem of a novel and am eager to share it with you.

Delores, or Itch as she's known to her family, has been living with her Gram and Gramps since her mom decided to leave. She's a girl who collects favourite words, does some serious thinking on her swing in the backyard, loves hanging out with her best friend Bailey, and is a bit of a kindred spirit with her Gramps. When Gramps dies, Itch is upset that Gram wants to move up to Ohio and leave every single memory of him behind.

Once in Ohio, Itch gets a bit of sunshine when she sees that the county fair starts that night. When she goes to check out the grounds on the way to the local Woolworth's, she is beckoned over by a girl in a sequins outfit and Shirley Temple hair who needs help with a zipper. Little does she know that this is the beginning of a complicated friendship between the two.

Once school starts, Itch is eager to be Gwendolyn's (or Wendy as she's known at school) official friend, which is hard since she is friends with popular girls Anna Marie and Connie and she attends lots of dance classes. But once Itch gets her mind to something, she stays true to it, and soon Itch and Gwendolyn are hanging out. Gwendolyn's other friends are surprised when Itch says she's been up to Wendy's room...most of her friends aren't allowed over. Itch wonders why that is, but soon she begins noticing some things about Wendy that just don't seem right. Will Itch have to courage to ask the hard questions and expose what is going on?

Michelle D. Kwasney has written a poignant story that packs a punch. Family structures, friendship boundaries, the realities of abuse are all explored with aplomb. The dialogue between the middle schoolers of the 1960s rings true, and Itch's relationship with her Grams grows so nicely throughout the book, readers will feel privileged to get to witness it. Gwendolyn and her mother's relationship is harder to look at, but Kwasney does it right. The frightening aspects of the abuse are not overdone, but they do not all appear off page either. The amazing thing is that this doesn't feel like a message book...it simply is a great story about two families.

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23. King of the Screwups by K.L. Going




Liam is handsome as his striking model mother is beautiful. He wears the best designer clothing, he has style, he has magnetism, he does not have his father's love.

Caught in a compromised position, drunk, on top of his father's desk, with an ugly girl he normally would not even glance at, Liam is sentenced to moving to Nevada with his grandparents, his version of Siberian exile with Stalin as his roommate. His beautiful but emotionally blugeoned mother intercedes by leaving his uncle's telephone number for Liam to call and beg mercy. Now Aunt Pete is quite a difference from the grandparents, and a secret solution kept from his father. Liam packs his amazing wardrobe and toiletries to find himself in a roach-infested trailer without a closet or an iron. As the story unfolds, the reader sees that Liam's mother is not the only casualty.

Written in her amazingly funny, poignant style, Going delivers another illuminating teenage story for us to consider. If you have not read Saint Iggy or Fat Kid Rules the World....stop that right now! Love the cover, btw.

ENDERS Rating: More, more!!!

K.L. Going's Website

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24. Counterfeit Son (YA)



Alphin, Elaine Marie. 2000. Counterfeit Son. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 180 pages.

He chose the Lacey family at first because of the sailboats.

This was completely an impulsive read. There was no urgency in getting to it. It's not a new book. (Though I believe it is soon to be reprinted soon in paperback by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. January 2010, according to B&N.) But the moment I picked it up, the moment I read the first page, I just had to keep reading this one. It was so very readable, so very compelling. Which--just so you know--was so unexpected, because this is not a book in my comfort zone, this genre is not one I usually read. At all. And yet for some reason, it grabbed my attention from the start.

Long story short, I was surprised by this one. And I definitely recommend it! It is the 2001 winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Young Adult Mystery.

What is it about? It's about a son who hates his father. With good reason. Cameron, our narrator, is a young boy--fourteen, I think--who has been through so much. His father, a man he calls Pop, is a serial killer and child abuser. But there is light, there is hope. Now that his father is dead--killed in a police raid--Cameron sees his chance. He wants a new life, a real life. By claiming to be someone he's not, by pretending to be one of the victims, Neil Lacey. But will this plan work? Or will his past catch up with him?

You can read an excerpt here.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. Legal and Illegal Drugs of Abuse: Both are Hurting Our Country

medical-mondays

Eugene H. Rubin, MD, PhD is Professor and Vice-Chair for Education in the Department of Psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis – School of Medicine.  Charles F. Zorumski MD is the Samuel B. Guze Professor and Head of the Demystifying Psychiatry cover imageDepartment of Psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis – School of Medicine, where he is also Professor of Neurobiology.  In addition, he is Psychiatrist-in-Chief at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Director of the Washington University McDonnell Center for Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology. Together they wrote, Demystifying Psychiatry: A Resource for Patients and Families, which offers a straightforward description of the specialty and the work of its practitioners.  In the excerpt below we learn about the prevalence of psychiatric disorders.  In the original article below they argue for funds to support drug prevention rather than for research for the resulting medical problems.

Heart disease, cancer, and stroke are the leading causes of death in the US. This is well known. What is less well known is that cigarette smoking (nicotine dependence) is the most important preventable contributor to these causes of death and alcohol abuse is the third most important contributor. These two legal substances have substantial addiction potential and together account for more than 400,000 deaths per year in the US. Once a young person smokes more than about 100 cigarettes, his or her chances of becoming addicted are substantial. Long term risky drinking predisposes a person to many health consequences in addition to enhancing the risk of becoming alcohol dependent. Risky alcohol use is defined as drinking 5 or more alcoholic beverages (12 oz beer equivalents) over a few hours on repeated occasions (actually, it is 5 drinks for men and 4 for women).

When misused, alcohol can lead to job loss, destruction of relationships, and a myriad of physical ailments not to mention its contribution to increased rates of traffic accidents, violence, and suicides. Alcohol-related disorders are major reasons why our emergency rooms (ERs) are so busy.

Cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin are illegal drugs that with repeated use can take over a person’s ability to behave rationally. These addictive drugs have severe physical and psychiatric consequences. They destroy relationships as well and harm society in obvious ways. They also increase our health care costs and tie up our ERs.

All of these drugs, including nicotine and alcohol, hijack the brain’s motivational system and hamper its executive system (the part of the brain that helps us think, plan, and learn). Each drug interacts with the “wiring” of these brain systems in different, but related, ways. The cigarette smoker who reaches for a smoke before getting out of bed in the morning, the alcoholic who needs an eye-opener to start the day, and the woman who prostitutes herself in order to get her next injection of heroin – all are responding to the control of an abused substance.

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