Robert Eggleton speaks passionately about child maltreatment, just as he creatively gets the message out in his book, "Rarity from the Hollow." Delve in...
Rarity from the Hollow is an adult literary science fiction novel filled with tragedy, comedy and satire that sensitizes readers to the world-wide social problem of child maltreatment.
“…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. In fact, the rustic humor and often graphic language employed by Lacy Dawn and her compatriots only serve to highlight their desperate lives, and their essential toughness and resilience….” -- http://awesomeindies.net/ai-approved-review-of-rarity-from-the-holly-by-robert-eggleton/
Child maltreatment is a world-wide phenomenon without clear definition. What one person believes to have been abusive, another may consider as appropriate child discipline, and these views may be influenced by cultures, societal norms, or religions. While prevalence rate is difficult to come up with, approximately one quarter of all adults believe that they were maltreated as children – physically, sexually, psychologically….
Let me illustrate the complexity of this huge social problem by talking about my novel. Most readers of Rarity from the Hollow have found that Lacy Dawn, the protagonist, is an abused child. I think so, as well.
Dwayne, Lacy’s father, is a disabled Veteran suffering from PTSD and who had night terrors and rages during which he switched Lacy and her mother, sometimes leaving scars. Within the story, however, all characters believe that Dwayne is exercising “spare the rod and spoil the child” type of discipline based on Biblical interpretation, and is well within his role as a good father and husband.
When writing Rarity from the Hollow, I didn’t want to oversimplify such a complex issue as child maltreatment into a typical good vs. evil theme. Yes, child maltreatment is evil, one of the most evil things imaginable, a defenseless child, after all, but it is also complex. It is likely significantly under-reported, exists in all communities worldwide, yes, including in your own back yards, we all have a responsibility to ensure child welfare, and that each situation of suspected child maltreatment requires individualized assessment and treatment.
I selected the literary science fiction backdrop for Rarity from the Hollow because it was the best fit by process of elimination. The novel also has elements of horror, mystery, romance, self-help, and thriller. It is not a good example of the historical or western genres, although the child maltreatment has been present throughout history, including in the Wild West.
In today’s reality, the systems in place to help maltreated children are woefully inadequate. I felt that the literary, biographical, nonfiction genres wouldn’t work because the story would have been so depressing that only the most determined would have finished it.
I felt that Rarity from the Hollow had to be hopeful. I wanted it to inspire survivors of child maltreatment toward competitiveness within our existing economic structures, instead of folks using past victimization as an excuse for inactivity. 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?
I knew that I didn’t want to write a memoir-type story like the emotionally charged Precious which was turned into a box-office hit with the backing of Oprah Winfrey, but which may not have helped prevent the maltreatment of a single kid in real life.
The protagonist in my story 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 improve the welfare of children in the world.
I believe that all adults should be aware of child maltreatment and that we all have a responsibility as adults to protect the welfare of children, worldwide. The world can be a scary place for all of us, especially children, but our fears cannot be diminished with ignorance, by sticking our heads in the sand. I do not believe that it would be appropriate to spread any more fear about anything, and I guess that’s what distinguishes true education from propaganda – relevant facts that are digestible and presented without a prompt for overreaction.
At the earliest age possible, I believe that all children should be educated by their parents, in child care centers, at church, and in schools about “good touch, bad touch” and about their legal rights to seek remedy, to tell someone in authority, if they are victimized by anybody, including bullies at school. However, I don’t believe that this content should be presented in any way that would cause children to become more fearful.
In my opinion, the first step in stopping child abuse is to help others realize that it is a realistic goal. Some people that I’ve met over the years seem to believe that it’s impossible to prevent child abuse, so why try? Based on my experience, not only is child maltreatment preventable, if people become sensitized to the issue, and I hope that Rarity from the Hollow helps a little, it would be in the best ethical and fiscal interests of any jurisdiction to do so. In addition to the heart-warming goal of “saving children” (my cause but perhaps not the cause of others), society’s failure to prevent child maltreatment contributes to an assortment of ills that becomes increasingly expensive to address.
Secondly, once prevention of child abuse is accepted as a worthwhile goal, the next step is honesty: to face the complexity of the problem without oversimplification. Historically, systemic responses to child maltreatment have sometimes damaged already damaged children. It’s still happening. We have set up interventions that depend on blaming. Either the child or the parent has to be “found guilty” for the services to be made available. This leaves a lot of needy people ineligible for services because the situation has not yet come to the attention of officials, or when it does, the case is simply dismissed because of technical deficiencies in the court or social services cases.
A lot of child abuse would be prevented by the establishment of voluntary community-based services accessible by parents and children. It must be a more powerful model than Parenting Education or Guidance Counseling in schools. As examples: local support groups for expectant mothers, such as those who have been maltreated themselves as children; referrals to treatment providers for parents addicted to drugs or alcohol, or who have mental health concerns exasperated by stress or poverty; highly confidential personal counseling in schools, accessible without stigma, to which children can seek assistance…. Many communities already have nonprofit agencies where these and other add-on programs could be based, such as Children’s Home Society of WV (CHSWV) that half of author proceeds from Rarity from the Hollow are donated to: http://www.childhswv.org/
If you check out what’s offered by this agency, adoption services is prominent. Let’s face it. Some people are just not cut out to become parents. There are many wonderful couples who would love to adopt children. Back in the ‘80s when I worked for CHSWV as the director of emergency shelters, a married couple that I’d gone to college with showed up. I’d lost touch with them over the years and they with me, so I had no part in them approaching the agency to seek the adoption of a child. Going on three decades later, the baby that this couple adopted has now graduated from college and is working for a local Department of Human Services office. Guess what she does? Yep, child protective services. I get goose bumps thinking about this success story. This type of story could be shared starting in public schools to reduce stigma associated with unplanned or misguided pregnancies.
Thirdly, and perhaps most difficult to accomplish despite notable success in doing so, we must learn to respect the child voice as it affects personal lives. Juvenile justice systems blame children who are actually victims and symptomatic of trauma. We treat some of them as if they are criminals. To “save” children we have put them in large institutions, now often called residential treatment centers, where some stay for years, while others bounce from one temporary foster home to the next.
I’m not saying that the kids are always “right” about what’s best for them. I am saying that if the adult experts – the social workers, judges, lawyers, doctors… – when these helpers discount or devalue the child’s perspective on the situation something very bad happens despite the best intentions of the adults to help that child. Every child in such a traumatic situation as maltreatment must feel as if her or his voice was heard and respected, especially when they don’t get what they “want” to happen. This is one reason that child voice in Rarity from the Hollow was found so powerful:
“…About the only thing in the book that is believable is the nature of the narrative voice, and it is utterly compelling. You find yourself convinced that “Hollow” was written as a diary-based autobiography by a young girl and the banal stems from the limits of her environment, the extraordinary from her megalomania. And that’s what gives Rarity From The Hollow a chilling, engaging verisimilitude that deftly feeds on both the utter absurdity of the characters’ motivations and on the progression of the plot…. -- http://electricrev.net/2014/08/12/a-universe-on-the-edge/
In the story, Lacy Dawn not only controlled her destiny, but saved the universe because the entrenched systems in place gave her room to operate. Regardless of circumstances, even if the adults are very “busy,” the capacity of children to hold opinions must be respected or we, as a society, risks perpetuation of a cycle of abuse. Victim empowerment is the key to child abuse prevention.
I believe that readers of my novel will become increasingly sensitized to child maltreatment because it is a fun read with tragedy amplifying comedy. The story is not for the prudish, faint of heart or easily offended – it does have some “naughty parts” by a PG rating. But, even if you don’t believe that Rarity from the Hollow fits your reading interests, please consider the higher purposes related to child abuse prevention. I’m not asking you to buy a book that you don’t want to read, or to value a book because the author proceeds support a good cause. Absolutely not. Instead, I’m asking you to look around in your communities and find likely underfunded programs to which you can contribute. Speak to your children and encourage them to listen to their peers, truly listening if one of them brings up a sensitive matter, like having been abused, bullied, or raped. Everybody can do something to put an end to this huge social problem, even if it’s just sending a small gift to your local emergency children’s shelter anonymously.
After the 2017 Christmas sales are tallied, the publisher is going to make the next deposit of author proceeds from the Rarity from the Hollow project into the account of Children’s Home Society of WV for the prevention of child maltreatment. www.childhswv.org Millions of American children spent this holiday in temporary shelters. A lot more kids world-wide are likely to spend their respective "holidays" in worse conditions. Having once been the director of emergency children's shelters in West Virginia, it is still heartbreaking to think about children not having a "real" family during Christmas. I remember the faces, the smiles and thank yous for the presents from staff, but….