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15 Books That Have Helped Childhood Abuse Survivors Heal

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If you grew up experiencing child abuse, oftentimes it affects you long into adulthood. Maybe you hear yourself repeating words to yourself that you heard in your abusive upbringing. Maybe your emotional trauma manifests physically in the form of chronic headaches, pain or flashbacks. Or maybe you struggle to find healthy coping mechanisms to handle the emotional pain.

It’s at times like these that books may come in handy.

Sometimes a book gives you the words to explain what you’ve been feeling for so long. Sometimes books can make you feel less alone in your struggle — like someone else has been there, too. Or sometimes a book can simply provide a temporary reprieve from the unwanted thoughts that crowd your brain. Whatever the reasons may be, we know books can be useful tools in childhood abuse recovery, so we asked members of our Mighty community to share a book they connect with as a survivor of childhood abuse.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “Matilda” by Roald Dahl

I first read it in third grade and it’s been my book since. My story aligned with Matilda’s nearly perfectly and before I got my happy ending, it gave me hope there would be one eventually. It’s been almost a year now since I was adopted by my teacher of eight years.” — Emily P.

“It made me not so alone, as I always felt like the outcast in my family growing up. [I felt like] the child no one wanted around. And like Matilda, my gifts were seen as weaknesses or overlooked completely. It also gave me hope that things could one day get better, and that I could have a loving family of my own. And I have that now.” — Lulu B.

2. “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk

“It helped explain why PTSD symptoms can have such strong physical manifestations and how somatic therapies are so important to healing.” — Monika S.

3. “The Shack” by William P. Young

“The Shack. I’ve struggled with why God would allow such a thing to happen, but this book challenges my anger and I broke down crying when I finished it. I’ve read it several times since.” — Tiffany C.

“It helped me find forgiveness for my abuser.” — Lisa S.

4. “A Child Called It” by Dave Pelzer

“It was hard to read, and I definitely skipped some parts, but it helped me to understand I was suffering from abuse too, and I knew that believing it was abuse was a radical idea for me then. It literally changed everything for me to know I wasn’t alone, but I needed to get help from someone who wouldn’t jeopardize my safety, either. It turned the tables on my abusers and made me feel like a hero.” — Krista P.

5. “The Hunger Games” Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

“The ‘Hunger Games’ books. Especially in the last book in the last pages where she says how there will be days that you will lapse, but you will come back from it and still love your loved ones. Also her description of being pregnant. I could relate to that as a sexual abuse survivor — being pregnant wasn’t always magical.” — Ledia W.

6. “A Series of Unfortunate Events” by Lemony Snicket

“Violet, Klaus and Sunny went through hell and back in every book, but no matter what, they powered through their situation and came out alive on the other side, which was always a super motivating message to me despite the grim subject matter. Gave me hope that I still had the power to get through just about any stressful situation thrown my way.” — Carson A.

7. “My Sweet Audrina” by V.C. Andrews

“‘My Sweet Audrina’ and then other V.C. Andrews books helped pre-teen me feel less alone as a victim of multiple types of abuse and helped me discover that having an extremely screwed up family was common enough that stories are based off it. Decades later, I discovered my teen reading those books and was told it was in order to better understand my experiences. I would recommend to young adults for these same reasons.” — Jennifer B.

8. “She’s Come Undone” by Wally Lamb

So many little things in it that tell me I’m not alone. It’s rather soothing for me. I’ve read it no less than 50 times.” — Amie L.

9. “Will I Ever Be Good Enough?” by Karyl McBride

Was a book about being raised by a narcissistic mother. Was an amazing book that helped me through my healing of child abuse and rejection.” — Valerie A.

10. “Blood and Chocolate” by Annette Curtis Klause

“I identified heavily with the main character Vivian, whose pack is in shambles after the death of her father, the once-Alpha. I read it while I was in foster care, and I honestly credit this book with saving my life. It dealt with family dynamics, relationships, internal conflicts and low-key depression and suicide. But in the end it’s hopeful and full of opportunity.” — Kristy H.

11. “All Out of Pretty” by Ingrid Palmer

“It was a beautiful story about a girl having to go through homelessness because her mom [was taking] drugs. My mother left me alone a lot when I was little when my dad was in the service. I had to take care of my brother, so I didn’t get to be a kid.” — Autumn D.

12. “Eleanor” by Jason Gurley

“You get to see all the viewpoints of mental health within a family and I found myself in each of them. So, so good, and such an insight into where things went wrong.” — Angela S.

13. “She’s Still There” by Chrystal Evans Hurst

“It’s about finding the happy little girl inside yourself after you feel like life has taken her away.” — Hayley B.

14. “The Bone Coven Chronicles” by Jenna Wolfhart 

“Fearless, daring girl takes control of her own destiny. Made it easier to deal with everyday life.” — Ruby C.

15. The Bible

“The Holy Bible. [I believe] it addresses every problem we have in life. Jesus healed and loved unconditionally.” — Jacob W.

What would you add?

Unsplash photo via Aliis Sinisalu

Originally published: May 22, 2018
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