Educational   Five Stars

Jonathan Schaper

This is not the type of book I would ordinarily read. Books on child abuse tend to be either too depressing, self-exploitative, or resort to too much pop psychology without managing to give any real insight. However, these are all things which "Father's Touch" has managed to avoid. Despite the horrible subject matter of this book, Donald D'Haene manages to draw you into his story with his very cinematic writing style and manages to illustrate how horrible child abuse is without ever resorting to lurid details. And, most importantly, Donald uses his story in a very constructive manner.

One of the things which is often most confusing to people who haven't been the victim of child abuse is how such things can go on without being detected or why people in such a situation don't just try to escape it. The fact is that many people try to escape, but due to lack of support, fail, while others are so psychologically torn down that they feel incapable of escaping. Donald manages to create an understanding of how this happens, illustrating how often abuse builds slowly over time, how the abuser manages to assert himself over others until they feel powerless, and how abuse can even begin to seem a normal part of life or something to be taken for granted, like the fact that the sun will rise in the morning.

This book also does an excellent job of illustrating how necessary it is for there to be a strong social support system for those who are not able to help themselves. Often, victims might not know there is any alternative available. Some cities are filled with homeless children who have found living on the street to be their only means of escape. Donald did not ultimately resort to such drastic measures himself, but his early attempts to get help often just resulted in the sort of social rejection which does drive many victims into feeling complete hopelessness and even self-blame.

And this book couldn't have come at a better time with the few support structures in place here in Ontario, where the events in this book take place, being threatened by massive cuts in funding being made to pay for unrealistic tax breaks promised during the last provincial election. We are now seeing shelters for abused women and children being closed down when instead more should be built. It is also ironic that Donald was not given any help by anyone he turned to in Aylmer years ago, but now the protection system is being attacked by critics in Aylmer who see the authorities' early intervention in another recent case as a form of persecution! Sure, the system is open to abuse, but as "Father's Touch" illustrates, such "interference" is often necessary. Critics in the Aylmer area would be especially well advised to read this book.

Sadly, in Aylmer, there is still a great deal of abuse which goes unchecked due to the presence of some very isolated communities, much like the one described in "Father's Touch", and there is now a cult in town which advocates that any child showing any sign of independent thought should be "beaten into submission". What happened to Donald is still happening in to others, and is actually finding acceptance by some merely because it is physical instead of sexual abuse. Hopefully, this book can create more understanding for the victims and encourage others to give the victims their support.