‘Stolen Childhoods: thriving after abuse’ by Shari Botwin (Rowman & Littlefield) 2024

Stolen Childhoods by Shari Botwin

BOOK REVIEW by Meredith Fuller OAM Psychologist/Author/Documentary Maker

“someone went inside of me”

With a master’s degree in social work and extensive experience as a therapist, Shari Botwin, LCSW, has written an invaluable book about all forms of childhood abuse and how to take actionable steps to create your better life. Her impressive ten chapter book outlines her own story of childhood abuse, her professional work with patients, and how it is eminently possible to “flip horror into hope.”

By sharing both her personal and professional story, Botwin has achieved a remarkable addition to the body of knowledge. She has lived-experience of shame and feeling ruined or cursed. This lived-experience is particularly helpful when she writes about experiencing her own pregnancy as an abused child.

Botwin has plaited her personal journey of realisation and her process of working with a trauma informed therapist alongside stories of her patients, and an Actionable Steps list after each section. With the device of including the dynamic between her and her therapist, Dorothy, Botwin has crafted a unique guide.

This excellent structure is a helpful technique that enables her to share her personal voice, with multiple narratives and professional information about abuse, therapeutic interventions, and statistical information.

Exquisitely combining heart and head, Botwin’s book is easily digested and fruitful for survivors, professionals, or anyone interested in the topic.

She has addressed every aspect of this insidious issue with empathy, intimacy and best practice knowledge.

Botwin’s research is sound; her observation that people with ADHD have experienced some form of abuse is as well argued as her definition of PTSD and Complex PTSD. Using a conversational language that is inclusive for the general population as well as professionals, Botwin also tackles how childhood abuse is inextricably linked to addiction. She recommends that the patient creates a timeline of critical events in their childhood to examine.

Her discussion about EMDR and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBL) is as well informed as her heartfelt understanding of the scourge of childhood abuse.
Her explanation of why most people are generally unready to examine their story until 20 or 30 years afterwards helps us to appreciate this timeframe whether the abuse is conscious or teased out from repressed memories that present as difficulty in interpersonal relationships or health. She notes that after beginning to see a professional, it may take around two years before they are able to address what occurred.

There are many little known points that she explains, such as the depressive symptoms that coincide with the ‘disappearing parent’ regardless of the relief if there was family violence. Her poignant comments of Elissa seeing her father choke her mother, and other instances of him abusing her mother are chilling in their simplicity.  

We know that the pre-verbal child doesn’t have the necessary language to name what happened, and her understanding of somatic psychotherapy is interlaced with the feelings entrapped in the body. We know that grandparents, parents, relatives, and siblings may abuse children and she explores intergenerational abuse.

I was delighted to review this book and I highly recommend it. As a psychologist with over 45 years experience married to a psychotherapist with specialist qualifications in somatic psychotherapy, I was heartened with her professionalism and insight. Botwin’s book is also an ideal extension to my free eBook ‘Understanding Family Violence’ www.meredithfuller.com.au

Stolen Childhoods by Shari Botwin

Meredith Fuller

Shari Botwin, LCSW (www.sharibotwin.com), Amazon author page:

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