My “healing from child abuse” journey began with the movie Mommie Dearest. I had heard all the talk about it being about child abuse and like many others, I was curious. As I left the theater, I remember thinking “That’s child abuse? That’s nothing.” But later that night, as I lay in bed, I was left with the question; “If that’s child abuse, what happened to me?” That question was the first step into this healing journey.
The thirty some years since have been slow and painful. I have come to terms with how extreme the treatment I received as a child was. I recently decided to revisit that movie, but first, I would read the book. I was curious as to how I would perceive Christina Crawford’s treatment now, as a person fully in touch with what child abuse is. Would I still perceive it as “nothing?”
Many times through out the book, I related to Christina. She was the oldest child and her experience, like mine, was very different from her youngest siblings. I related to her feelings of despair. It didn’t’ matter what I did, I would get in trouble for the slightest perceived offense. The problem was, you never knew what would be the offending action. No one gave you “the rules.” They were made up on the fly, by someone who was either drunk or in a psychotic episode. And they weren’t something you could learn by experience because they changed.
Another thing I related to Christina’s experience was how all these outrageous things could happen, and when they were over, no one talked about it or acknowledged anything had happened at all. They not only didn’t acknowledge it, life went on as if everything was just dandy. Though Christina grew up in a world opposite of mine, the aftermath of child abuse connected us.
Tonight I watched the movie. How did I feel about the movie now, as an enlightened person? I must say that the book helped me understand just how badly abused Christina was, in ways the movie did not, an perhaps could not convey. Though I thought the movie was done well, and I do recommend it, I’m glad I read the book first. And while I now see it clearly as abuse, Artie doesn’t seem to think it was that bad.