A Reader: “A Brother’s Journey” by Richard B. Pelzer

As always, this is not a book report. Rather, it is some thoughts that stuck with me while reading “A Brother’s Journey” by Richard B. Pelzer.

Richard B. Pelzer is the brother of Dave Pelzer. Dave is the author of three books, “A Child Called It,” “The Lost Boy,” and “A Man Named Dave.” The three books document one of the most horrific child abuse cases I have ever encountered. Richard’s book focuses on life after David was rescued from the home and placed in the foster care system. After David left, Richard became the source of his mother’s rage. This book documents his heartbreaking and gut-wrenching struggle.

Walk up and down the streets of any city in America or through the rows of any desks in one of our classrooms and you will pass a child being abused by those meant to protect him/her. Their scars and bruises may not be visible to untrained eyes. Their pain may come in the form of mental or sexual abuse yet the impact is the same. As I read Richard’s story, I thought of all those children and the damage being done. On one hand, I find stories such as these beyond painful. On the other hand, they infuriate me beyond belief because I can’t stand the thought of bullies. Bullies use their perceived power to intimidate and belittle others. No one should be made to feel this way. What truly angers me is the thought of a parent, guardian, and/or family member being that bully.

It has been more than ten years since I read “A Child Called It” and its sequels. While I know David’s story, I always wondered what happened to his brothers. There was a need to get the complete story. As I read Richard’s account, I was horrified to learn he and his brothers weren’t taken from their abusive mother. Instead, she turned her anger to the next child in line. Standing in the modern world, I am flabbergasted that they stayed with her, as well as the systematic failures. As I lingered on this thought, I could only hope and pray that gaps such as these have been addressed in our system.

Now, I find myself as the Director of Development and Community Relations for a youth development nonprofit. Everyday, a child walks through our doors seeking counseling. Some of these kids are here because of abuse they’ve experienced. Some are referred by guardian angels who rescued them from vicious cycles of abuse. Others were referred by child protective services. As these kids begin their road to recovery, I marvel at how far we’ve come and baffled by the distance yet to travel. As I write this, I know I don’t have all of the answers. I know more work needs to be done on training new parents, resources for communities stretched thin, and safeguards to catch these cases as soon as they begin. We’ve come a long way, yet our journey is not complete.

Be good to each other,

-Nathan