Book Review, Social Work/Helping Profession/Mental Health

The Little Girl is Me

This manuscript is many stories in one and describes the trauma that many have faced. If we think about the people in our lives; we can name at least one who has been a victim of abuse whether physical, verbal, emotional, financial or sexual.

This manuscript is written by Christine M. Ristaino who was molested as a child, date raped as a young adult and assaulted as an adult by a man who stole her purse and punched her in the head and face with her young children as witnesses.

She is a professor at Emory University teaching Italian. The manuscript is a memoir which describes her family, her own upbringing and her husband’s along with the prevalent issues facing the U.S today-racism, prejudice, inequality, victimization and trauma.

She discusses her Italian-American upbringing and her current involvement with the Unitarian Universalist congregation. She further describe a course she took through the Unitarian Church on social justice, called, “Building the World we Dream About.”

She discusses the assault and how it stays on her mind and in her memory thru dreams, interactions with others, how a Target store triggers her memory of the assault (It happened outside a Target store) and how when she tries to seek help there is no ‘right’ fit for her. She is not repeatedly abused thru physical, emotional or sexual means. She is not a subject of domestic violence, so who can best help her?

She is seeking assistance and resolution of some sort. She and her daughter attend an Aikido class and her son a karate class. She discusses friends of hers who are Jewish and Italian and the prejudices and misunderstandings that occur-an almost ‘lost in translation’ moment.

A line from the book that stood out for me, “When something is painful,” I said, “You just want to shut down, stop a conversation, prevent it from happening. It’s sort of a protection. But I was alienating people.” By not sharing the experience of what happened, she did not heal or move much in that direction and her friends and colleagues had no idea of how much this traumatic physical attack had on her.

How does one truly move on? Is trauma something that stays with a person who has suffered some form of it? Should an individual who has been traumatized open up and talk to family, friends, colleagues, and professionals to begin the healing process?

Another quote from the manuscript that stood out for me is:

“…I know there are different levels to this, but what people don’t understand is that it’s all

traumatic. It all counts. Abuse is abuse. You can have it happen one time or hundreds,

but once it happens, we all feel the same way later on.”

This manuscript should become a published book. There is a lot of material here that covers many areas in the ‘helping’ field(s).

It is never easy to write about your own hurts, misfortunes, and terrible moments in your life, but by doing so, one allows others who have gone through similar circumstances the opportunity to heal, to know they are not alone, and it provides others with an opportunity to learn. I commend Christine on writing this manuscript!

By Victoria Brewster, MSW