Child Maltreatment Can Be Prevented!
In Real Life, Not Just by Fictional HEA Endings
Thanks, Sally, for the opportunity to tell your readers a little about me, my debut novel, and the nonprofit child welfare agency to which author proceeds have been donated in support of the prevention of child maltreatment.
I’ve worked in the field of child advocacy for over forty years. In 2002, I accepted a job as a children’s psychotherapist for our local mental health center. It was an intensive day treatment program. Many of the kids in the program had been abused, some sexually. Part of my job was to facilitate group therapy sessions.
One day in 2006 during a group therapy session, I was sitting around a table used for written therapeutic exercises, and a little girl with stringy, brown hair sat a few feet away. Instead of just disclosing the horrors of her abuse at the hands of one of the meanest daddies on Earth, she also spoke of her hopes and dreams for the future: finding a loving family who would protect her.
This girl and her resiliency were inspiring. She got me thinking again about my own hopes and dreams of writing fiction, an aspiration that I’d held in since childhood. My protagonist was born that day – an empowered victim who takes on the evils of the Universe: Lacy Dawn. I began to write fiction in the evenings.
During my career, one of the most frustrating attitudes that I’ve encountered, held by professionals and the public alike, has been that nothing can be done to prevent child abuse. This is simply not true. If somebody would have listened to Lacy Dawn, her family might have been stabilized before she went through a world of hurt.
Child welfare funding is inadequate. I’ve never heard anybody disagree. Most of the funding, however, is spent on after-the-fact out-of-home placements, such as foster care and group homes. As evidenced by research, it is nineteen times less expensive to prevent child maltreatment than to incur the financial costs of its impact.
Rarity from the Hollow is my debut novel. I know that it sounds weird, but I as I wrote, I imagined victims benefiting from a science fiction story. I modeled the flow of the story after a mental health treatment episode involving a traumatized child: harsh and difficult to read scenes in the beginning of the story similar to how, in treatment, therapeutic relationships must first be established before very difficult disclosures are made; cathartic and more relaxed scenes in middle chapters as detailed disclosures are less painful; and, increasingly satiric and comical toward the end through an understanding that it is “silly” to live in the past, that demons, no matter how scary, can be evicted, and that nothing controls our lives more so than the decisions that we make ourselves.
During my career, many emotionally charged situations have tugged my heart strings so hard that child welfare became more than my job, more than a cause. It became a calling. Rarity from the Hollow fictionalized some of my true-life experiences and includes elements of poverty, domestic violence, child maltreatment, substance abuse and mental health problems. I wrote what I know best. My characters are more real than not, even though the backdrop of the story is science fiction.
I selected science fiction as the genre for my novel because it was the best fit by process of elimination. The novel also has elements of literary, horror, romance, and adventure. I felt that an exposé or memoir wouldn’t work because the story would have been so depressing that only the most determined would have finished it. The story had to be hopeful. I wanted it to inspire survivors of childhood maltreatment. And, there are a lot of us. While prevalence rate is difficult to come up with, approximately one quarter of all adults believe that they were maltreated as children – physically, sexually, or psychologically. Internationally, forty million children are abused each year.
I didn’t think that anybody would bite on the theme of a knight on a white stallion galloping off a hillside to swoop victims into safety, like in the traditional romance genre. That almost never actually happens in real life, so that genre was too unrealistic as the primary. There was already enough horror in the story, so that genre was out too. What could be more horrific than child abuse? The protagonist and her traumatized teammates needed fantastical elements to achieve empowerment. But, as in life, one cannot overcome barriers to the pursuit of happiness by simply imagining them away. That’s where the science fiction came into play. It provided a power source. I tied the science fiction to Capitalism because in today’s reality it will take significant financial investment by benefactors to significantly improve the welfare of children in the world.
In hindsight, maybe my idea that victims of childhood mistreatment could benefit from reading Rarity from the Hollow wasn’t so off-base after all. Seven book reviewers have privately disclosed to me that they were victims of childhood maltreatment and that they had benefited having read the story. One of these reviewers publicly disclosed: “…soon I found myself immersed in the bizarre world… weeping for the victim and standing up to the oppressor…solace and healing in the power of love, laughing at the often comical thoughts… marveling at ancient alien encounters… As a rape survivor… found myself relating easily to Lacy Dawn… style of writing which I would describe as beautifully honest. Rarity from the Hollow is different from anything I have ever read, and in today’s world of cookie-cutter cloned books, that’s pretty refreshing… whimsical and endearing world of Appalachian Science Fiction, taking you on a wild ride you won’t soon forget….” http://kyliejude.com/2015/11/book-review-rarity-from-the-hollow/
During my career, I have also been involved in several fund-raising efforts for community-based children’s programs. One of the aspects I’ve learned is that pulling heart strings of potential donors is simply not enough. I kept this in mind as I wrote Rarity from the Hollow. While sticking close to the mission of sensitizing readers to the huge social problem of child maltreatment, I wanted to produce a story that readers would enjoy:
“…a hillbilly version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, only instead of the earth being destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass, Lacy Dawn must…The author has managed to do what I would have thought impossible; taken serious subjects like poverty, ignorance, abuse, and written about them with tongue-in-cheek humor without trivializing them…Eggleton sucks you into the Hollow, dunks you in the creek, rolls you in the mud, and splays you in the sun to dry off. Tucked between the folds of humor are some profound observations on human nature and modern society that you have to read to appreciate…it’s a funny book that most sci-fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.” http://awesomeindies.net/ai-approved-review-of-rarity-from-the-holly-by-robert-eggleton/
“…Full of cranky characters and crazy situations, Rarity From the Hollow sneaks up you and, before you know it, you are either laughing like crazy or crying in despair, but the one thing you won’t be is unmoved… Robert Eggleton is a brilliant writer whose work is better read on several levels. I appreciated this story on all of them.” https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/rarity-from-the-hollow
I retired from working full-time in May 2015 to concentrate on writing and promoting my fiction. Even though I’d paid into the U.S. Social Security fund for over fifty-two years, I felt a little guilty about retiring. The decision to donate half of all author proceeds to child abuse prevention helped resolve some of my guilty feelings. On December 28, 2015, Rarity from the Hollow was picked by a Bulgarian book review site along with The Martian by Andy Weir and Revival by Stephen King as one of the five best books of 2015. The book critic, Ventsi, is an Astrophysicist. http://codices.info/2015/12/top-5-for-2015-ventsi/
Since retiring, I have been working very hard to tell the world about my novel. On November 3, 2016, the new edition paperback version of Rarity from the Hollow was released: http://www.lulu.com/shop/robert-eggleton/rarity-from-the-hollow/paperback/product-22910478.html. The eBook version was released on December 5, 2016: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B017REIA44/ref=tsm_1_fb_lk. On January 6, 2017, the first review of the new edition was published: “… Brilliant satires such as this are genius works of literature in the same class as Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” I can picture American Lit professors sometime in the distant future placing this masterpiece on their reading list.” https://marcha2014.wordpress.com/2017/01/06/5-stars-for-rarity-from-the-hollowby-robert-eggleton/
I continue to donate to Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. It’s a nonprofit child welfare agency established in 1893 that now serves over 13,000 families and children each year in an impoverished U.S. state with inadequate funding to deliver effective social services. I used to work there in the early ‘80s and stand behind its good work. Some of the ways that this agency helps to prevent child maltreatment are:
- Adoption, including pregnancy counseling and assistance with legal services;
- Birth to Three, which assists families care for children who exhibit developmental delays and strengthens the families’ abilities to care for their children at home;
- Comprehensive Assessment and Planning for children and families involved with child protective services to ensure the appropriateness of services and safety of the children;
- Child Advocacy Centers within which children suspected of having been maltreated can be interviewed in a supportive environment by all involved parties (police, social workers, medical staff, defense, etc.), including video recordings, so as to prevent the children from further trauma by exposure adversarial courtroom proceedings;
- Parenting Education for parents involved in divorce proceedings;
- In-Home Child and Family Services to keep families intact when there is no imminent danger to the child but supportive services, such as case management or transportation is needed;
- Exceptional Youth Emergency shelters serving youth with disabilities;
- Foster Care in private family homes that sometimes adopt the children initially placed there if freed for adoption through legal proceedings;
- One mid-town youth center that focuses on after-school and summer academics, delinquency prevention, and parental development;
- Right from the Start which targets high risk birth mothers and high risk infants to ensure that proper medical, economic, and social service needs are met;
- Emergency Shelters (9) for youth in crisis (this was where Robert worked as the Director of Shelter Care – He started 5 of these family-like settings but the network has since expanded);
- We Can, a program that recruits volunteers to augment services provided by child protective services workers;
- And, a Youth Services program in an under-served part of WV that turns around mostly younger teens who are heading in the wrong direction.
I am available if anybody has any questions or wants addition info:
Thanks again, Sally, for the opportunity to share my thoughts.
Hey guys, I hope you enjoyed/learned something from this thoughtful, well-researched guest post. I certainly did! If you would like to support Robert’s cause, Rarity from the Hollow can be purchased in ebook or paperback forms from these links: