Here’s the full review from Chynna Laird:
Welcome to our Thursday segment.
In keeping with our theme for this week, we’re going to do a review of a book written by an abuse survivor. Hannah Reinbeck bravely shares her story of childhood sexual abuse and neglect in her memoir, Breaking the Cycle of Abuse: My Journey From Victim to Survivor. Stories such as Hannah’s are so important to have out there because these issues happen a lot more often than we are either willing to realize or accept. Sure, there literally thousands, if not more, of people’s stories out there in book form, articles, blog posts or even woven into the lines of poetry. Movies and television shows have touched on it, even in music. So how, then, with all of these sources of real-life accounts of people’s personal depictions of abuse and neglect, can these things still be happening? That’s the main question Hannah is seeking to answer with her book.
Hannah begins her journey by introducing the reader to her mother, who seemed to have enough of her own issues even before she decided to have children. This is a woman who obviously needed some sort of support and guidance herself before she could be the mother all mothers strive to be. The most dangerous aspect is that she got into relationships that were not only harmful to her but even moreso for her children. For example, leaving children alone with a man who not only had a drinking problem but also an abnormal fascination with young girls was, in the most polite wording, simply bad parenting. Hannah tried talking about her discomfort with her mother’s partner, even before the abuse happened, but her worries were pushed aside. Until the sexual abuse started.
It wasn’t until her abuser was caught in the act, and it was brought to the attention of her mother, did any sort of acknowledgment take place. Hannah’s mother took her to the hospital where she was checked out and it was confirmed such abuse took place, but there never seemed to be any remorse on her mother’s part. In fact, she didn’t seem to have any true realization of fault her part for neglecting to ensure the safety or security of her child. This led Hannah and her brother down a lifetime of experiences they never should have had to if the situation had been handled better.
Hannah and her brother were removed from their mother’s care and put into Foster Care. This should have been a relief on some part as they would finally be in a safe, caring environment where they could heal enough to enjoy the rest of their childhoods. Not only were Hannah and her brother separated and put into different Foster Homes, but the homes they were sent to weren’t much better than the one they were removed from. And on top of that, their mother was forced to give up her parental rights. They weren’t given any sort of counseling or support, they weren’t assigned a Child Advocate and there didn’t seem to be any sort of follow up visits to ensure that Hannah and her brother were thriving in their temporary placements. Despite the terrible events her mother allowed to happen to her children, she was still their mother. Imagine how excruciating it must have been to not only lose your main parent but also to be floating in a system, waiting for a permanent home, because most people want to adopt babies and may not have room for siblings.
This led to Hannah basically living the rest of her life in survival mode. What this means is that when a person is hurt at the very core of their soul, it makes potentially happy and positive things almost scary. It’s harder to trust, to believe there is good in you, to be open to new people or situations or to let others close to you. You build up a wall so high and so strong, it makes it impossible for people who truly care to break through. And you inadvertently repeat negative cycles because it’s all you know and where you feel most accepted (such as being in her ‘chaos house’ as a child, then being moved to a different version of it then facing it in yet another way after she got married).
I applaud Hannah for being one of the few who has never given in to the crutches that can tempt you to cope in maladaptive ways. She hasn’t turned to any sort of substance nor has she used her childhood trauma as an excuse not to keep trying to move forward. Don’t get me wrong. That level of abuse and neglect are felt forever, even with proper assistance. And she doesn’t say that she’ll never get help. She says she knows its there for her and she’ll seek it out when she’s ready. That’s an amazing thing.
This memoir doesn’t just focus on the abuse itself. It shows what happens to the person after the act. Just because a child is physically removed from the direct situation doesn’t mean they are properly equipped to deal with all of the aftermath. Child abuse interferes with development, friendships, relationships as well as personal growth. By sharing her story, she is showing the importance of ensuring that every child in the same situation has at least one strong, positive, loving, nurturing person right there with them for all the steps they face on their road to recovery.
Breaking the Cycle of Abuse is a great addition to anyone’s personal resource bookshelf. Having a voice you aren’t afraid to be heard and making others aware of these issues is critical in making this stop. And those who are going through this, or who are trying to go on after it, need these stories if for no other reason than to know they aren’t alone.