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Validating Stories for Kids Experiencing Domestic Violence
For kids whose families are dealing with domestic violence
If you are in immediate danger:
- If you are being monitored, be careful with your web history. A phone call might be safer than going to these websites since they can be tracked by an abuser. But many do offer live chat options if your device is secure.
- National domestic violence hotline: (NDV)
- Call 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) in more than 200 languages
- For d/Deaf individuals:
- Use TTY 1-800-787-3224 for the NDV Hotline
- NDV Advocates who are Deaf are available 24/7 through the National Deaf Hotline by video phone at 1-855-812-1001, Instant Messenger (DeafHotline) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Indigenous & Native (US & Alaska), culturally responsive helpline
- Strong Hearts Helpline website
- 1-844-7NATIVE (762-8483), available 7am to 10pm CT
- After-hours, select option #1
If you are a secondary resource for someone impacted by violence
- We’ve been working in the Luminary Brain Trust private FB group (for Luminary members) on trauma stewardship and creating support communities to react with transformative justice so we can support friends and family who experience violence. So go over there if you’d like to catch up on those series.
- To brush up on how to support survivors within your local community (beyond sending a check), check out the Creative Interventions Toolkit for community organizing before, during, and after the violence takes place.
- To download a pod community-building worksheet for your kiddos (to explicitly discuss building a security network so kids know where to turn if/when they or someone they care about are impacted by personal violence), check out the Bay Area Transformative Justice Pod Mapping Worksheet
Pitfalls to avoid while reading these stories
- Myth: Domestic violence is a problem only for people of color
- Most of the books about domestic violence that I can find, particularly the biographies, feature families of color. Make sure your kids know that this is NOT because parents of color are more likely to be abusive. But DO discuss how A. Families of color are most often left with fewer resources and have bigger challenges to face when it happens and B. Colonization and systemic racism has been actively and intentionally designed to perpetuate domestic violence targeting marginalized people. And C. The depiction of families of color within all kinds of violent situations comes from whitewashing – white families unwilling to talk about it, white authors appropriating characters of color to tell their stories, and white publishers unwilling to depict white families as violent.
- Myth: Domestic violence is only a problem only for poor people
- All the repeats that I mentioned above. Having less resources is an added stressors that may increase violence, the exposure to it, and the inability to escape it. But being poor does not make us violent people.
About this booklist:
- All of these books are analyzed through the lens of transformative community justice. Which means:
- This approach is led by and centers on the person who is identified as the most vulnerable, focusing on empowering and providing support, not saviorism.
- We listen to and believe the person who has been (most) harmed / with the least power.
- We do not demonize the person who does harm / has the most power
- We do not use 911 or racist/ culturally inappropriate systems as a first resort to conflict.
- We do not judge people who must resort to calling in law enforcement for their own protection.
- We totally do judge people who use law enforcement as a personal bouncer for their own comfort.
- Each member of the community has a role to play in taking responsibility for the safety of all members involved
- Every member of a family impacted by domestic violence (including pets) is has worth and value and a need of support.
- If you’re an Collaborator-level Patron or higher, you get sneak-peek access to my content library – rough-draft lists with bonus content, which are a-work in-progress as I plow through more books each week. Sometimes I open these up to the public when there is an urgent need. Due to the nature of this content, this list will remain permanently free and accessible. If you’d like to support my work so I can keep doing that, you can join our patreon community here.
- I’m trying to publish my billions of private archives quickly, without fiddling with the details. These are bare-bones book lists that assume:
- You’ve been following BFL for a while
- You understand that not all books are for all readers
- These are not formatted for public consumption (no fancy links, some cussing, these are basically brain-barf.)
- Click here to go back to the unpolished book collections main page.
This post may contain affiliate links, which allow me to earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Check out the full affiliate disclosure along with the BFL statement of accountability. I use bookshop.org links when possible, or Amazon when they aren’t.
Books & Notes:
For Kids Helping Friends Whose Parents Are Separated And/Or Facing Hardship
- If families are separating or going through the process of reconciliation, money might be tight. If that is the chase, check out our collection on wealth inequality. But don’t assume that, and definitely don’t teach kids that domestic violence is only an issue for the working poor (it definitely is not).
- Check out the Separation Anxiety book collection
- Check out this booklist supporting children whose families are separated due to arrest and incarceration.
For kids who have faced traumatic experiences
- Validating stories for adopted children who have experienced trauma (some of these books can be helpful for children who are still with their family of origin)
For kids feeling alone – Stories from children who survived violence and/or neglect
- Hear My Roar (watts, 2009 edition) validating book for kids with abusive parent. Not appropriate read for young kids without lived experience. father is alcoholic, always apologizes and is sometimes sweet. we see how living in fear and never quite sure what’s going to set him off creates additional emotional stress for mother and child. they don’t paint the dad as a bad guy – but as someone who wants to get better, but has an addiction (alcoholism). could be validating, but not written for outsiders. graphic novel
Dizzy – (Biography of Dizzy Gillespie) Q hated this at 5.5, but I think he was just too young. The storytelling is too abstract for younger kids, but the overall message of Dizzy channeling his frustration and anger from growing up poor in an abusive home into music and playing around and breaking the rules of music to create something new and be unique was a powerful one. Some references to domestic violence (“whooping”) with visuals of a dad hitting his son might be triggering for some. Q was surprised to learn that Black families can be abusive too, so that was an eye opener on gaps we’ve been having on the connection between race and violence, as previous to that we had only talked about domestic violence within our Irish & Chinese families. This was the first book we read featuring an abusive father that explicitly stated it, and I find the lack of silence clarifying while so many books refuse to talk about it (which feels like gaslighting). would have loved to read this more and unpack all of the things to talk about it, but we’ll have to wait until the kiddos are older. Could be problematic read for white kids if it reinforces stereotypes about violent black men. Grades 3-8, black history, music, rebels, disruption (in music) child abuse, violence
- Hey Kiddo (krosoczka) #Ownvoices story by child adopted by his grandparents. Best for middle & high school kids, it’s a thick graphic novel. Discussion is both validating and not too graphic – addresses neglect and addiction, how both his parents and grandparents were flawed but did their best, there are no villains in this story. Author does an unbelievable job capturing the dingy resignation of Worcester, the illustrations are so good they invoke sensory memories. Worth noting that his grandparents have the privilege of being financially secure and white. Transparency: Got a review copy of this from free from the publisher.
- A family that fights – Meant to be validating for domestic abuse (dad hitting mom) but oddly specific and the illustrations and story are not engaging, just a play by play of violence & victimization. Not sure I’d recommend this. Domestic violence, trauma, validating.
- Hazelnut days – zau – validating book for older kids – Supposed to be validating for kid who visits father in prison, how he can both miss and admire his dad while also fearing his father’s aggression and not being proud of the fact that he’s in prison. trauma, abuse, prison (dad). Illustrations and surprise twist at the end make this appropriate for maybe 8?, the illustrations and subtleties are too abstract for younger kids.
- Still A Family – I include this here because it could be perfect for kids (both living in shelters or elsewhere) who are wrestling with the pain of having minimal contact with a parent who needs to be separated for a time – which is often the case in the aftermath of a conflict situation. This one doesn’t address domestic violence at all – but validates the pain of family separation while living in gender-based shelters. Mom and the child live in one shelter, with outside meetings with dad and other innovative ways to connect while supervised or outside of their traditional home.
Workbooks & validating books to help process abuse & neglect
- Healing Days – Straus – Therapy workbook for helping kids who have experienced abuse.
- Somebody Cares – Straus – Validating & helpful book for kids who have experienced neglect. I found this triggering AF, and although I remember reading it, I had a shutdown and was unable to take notes. Because I don’t have notes, I can’t verify that this book was good or not, but given the author (and how validated and seen I felt reading it) I suspect it was probably a good resource in the right hands.
Explaining to kids how verbal conflict can escalate into violence
- Maple And Willow Together – Helps kids understand how small conflict can escalate into violent conflict, which breaks it down to help them see how and when they need to stop before things go too far. Great for showing how difficult it is to resolve conflict if you let it cross the line into violence.
- Horrible Bear! – A girl’s perspective of a bear being an asshat, expanding her perspective to realize that from the bear’s position, she’s the asshat. I’ve got more books on taking another person’s perspective in conflict, but that should probably be a whole separate list.
For Kids Living in or moving into Shelters
What to expect, validating the experience so they know they’re not alone, etc. Many of these books are ambiguous enough that they could be either homeless shelters or domestic violence shelters, so I’ll specify if any explicitly allude to domestic violence.
- ‘The Magic Beads’ (domestic violence & women’s shelters) – This is the most empowering one I’ve found, that helps kids see how they can take on some power in a situation where many feel powerless. This is an okay book to read to kids living outside this experience (both destigmatizing & validating). Child & single mother (not by choice) live in a women’s shelter. “That night the ladies who worked in the shelter made lasagna for supper. It was good, but not as good as the lasagna her dad used to make. Lillian missed him sometimes. They’d moved into a shelter because he had a bad temper, and sometimes he hit her mom and hurt her. They’d left all their things behind. Including Lillian’s toys.” – perfect for letting kids know its okay to miss and still love a parent who has done harm, but validates those feelings of loss and displacement, it’s okay to feel mad at the parent/guardian you’re with for displacing you, but also shows why they did it out of love – and that shelter life is temporary. Best part is that the book isn’t ALL about experience of violence – it’s about being creative with what you have, being nervous to speak up n class, and overcoming a tough situation. Ages 6+ for kids destigmatizing, maybe 4+ for validating. Not exclusively for kids who are in shelters – as the message connects with kids who are still at home. But if reading this, I’d be careful to be explicit that not all (most) families who experience abuse do not end up having to resort to shelters.
- A Safe Place – (domestic violence & women’s shelters) A little girl and her mother go to live in a women’s shelter for a while. not a particularity interesting story, but could be helpful for kids about to or who have just gone to a shelter to validate those feelings of fear and sadness and eventual safety and reassurance. At the end, she helps welcome a new kid to the shelter just as it’s her turn to go. domestic violence, women’s shelters, validating, trauma, indigenous makers (Miami tribe) This is not a good book to read to outsiders, as it’s written only as a validating book for kids living this experience (validating only).
- Still A Family – This one doesn’t address domestic violence at all – but validates the pain of family separation while living in gender-based shelters. Mom and the child live in one shelter, with outside meetings with dad. I include it here because it could be perfect for kids (both living in shelters or elsewhere) who are wrestling with the pain of having minimal contact with a parent who needs to be separated for a time – which is often the case in the aftermath of a conflict situation.
Problematic – DO NOT RECOMMEND
- NOT RECOMMENDED: A place to stay: a shelter story – I’m not sure who this is for. For kids going through this experience, it feels like silencing, with the hardships erased. The story gives a pretty cheery perspective on life in a shelter, it’s very “Oh this? We can pretend this is great. Buck up and look on the bright side!” and doesn’t validate or address issues about how families have to be separated by gender, or how they have to always carry possessions because your things get stolen. Pretending a soup kitchen is a banquet hall is something for a parent to do – but not a book.
For families with privilege who are hoping to understand and help – it feels weird to promote this cheery idealization of life in a shelter, particularly with how swanky it’s depicted. Nothing about this story inspires kids to donate or help – it looks like the characters are completely taken care of already.
- NOT RECOMMENDED: When They Fight – Addresses the rollercoaster of domestic violence – where folks can be both loving and fighting. Badger feels upset and confused when his parents fight. then they are friends and he feels great. kinda validating…but doesn’t really tell us anything. Just makes it look like this is normal, I’d tread careful on that. We want to validate the experience of kids so they know they aren’t alone, but violence should never be normalized. Not so sure about this, particularly the parts where his parents suddenly make up and are friends holding hands and that somehow makes him strong and run fast. The story implies that his parent’s fights make him grow stronger, which is a messed up thing to teach a kid – particularly when the protagonist is coded as male. In this book, the domestic violence is verbal amount a hetero couple, and seems to come from both sides, so it ignores the power dynamics at play.