Saturday, October 26, 2013

Parents who kill by Carol Anne Davis

For many people, the thought of killing a child is abhorrent, something beyond their comprehension.  Yet every year thousands of children worldwide die at the hands of their parents through neglect, abuse, or deliberate acts of premeditated murder.  Parents who kill chronicles the stories of parents who have killed their children through neglect, through severe physical abuse, through religious perversion, and deliberate acts of murder for profit or revenge.  The stories are mainly from the United Kingdom and the United States, but there are a scattering of other stories too.  The author has read extensively from newspapers and published works, as well as interviewing some authors and journalists to create an insightful look into parents who kill their children.

What could easily have become a blood drenched horror is instead an insightful look into what drives people to commit such horrible acts against children.  Broken down into sections the book examines similar murders and killings as a group - mothers who kill to keep their boyfriends, mercy killings, postnatal depression killings, revenge against partners who leave, religious beliefs taken to extremes or otherwise perverted, and parents who kill to claim insurance money.  While the majority of the cases described are very brief, the author manages to take you inside the minds and world of the killers to show the motivations for what they did.  Sadly too many of the cases also show the failings of the social services involved, with multiple children dying in horrible circumstances because the social service agencies lack the teeth to act or failed to follow through on reports of abuse.

I have read quite a few books recently about neglected children or children who have been abused by their parents and it is a horrible topic to read about, but it is also important to be aware that not everyone is cut out to be a parent and that some people have children for the wrong reasons.  Carol Anne Davis makes some blunt recommendations at the end of the book and raises some ideas that as a society we need to be aware of - children need to be protected from abuse is one of them, but it also raises the idea that society has a responsibility to react in more appropriate ways to women who show severe signs of postnatal depression, and that we need to forget the illusion that the bond between mothers and infants is instant and magical. 

What could have become a preachy book is instead an eye opening one that I am glad I read, although some of the stories made me sick to the stomach and I had to put the book down a few times because the stories were just too much to keep reading.  I have seen the results of child abuse first hand, and in New Zealand there is a tragic history of children killed by parents or caregivers - some of which are achingly familiar when reading the stories in Parents who kill.  I would recommend to anyone working in a social work, school, or other public facility read this book so they can understand some of the warning signs and hopefully act on them rather than wait until it is too late.

Take your time reading Parents who kill and take a break when you need to.  If you read this book and want to read other stories from people who have lived through difficult experiences and trauma, then try:
  • Child C: Surviving a foster mothers reign of terror by Christopher Spry
  • Punished by Vanessa Steel
  • Etched in sand by Regina Calcaterra
  • A child named It by Dave Pelzer
  • Broken by Shy Keenan
  • Damaged by Cathy Glass
  • When rabbit howls by Truddi Chase
  • The little prisoner: A memoir by Jane Eliott
  • Sickened: The memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood by Julie Gregory

Reviewed by Brilla

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