Books, Music* Children & Adults

You can’t stop where you come from because it’s in your blood, it’s in your DNA..” ~ Lia Marie Johnson

Lia Marie Johnson, actress, singer and YouTuber, released a heart wrenching song and video titled “DNA” about the devastating impact domestic violence has had on her life; and her struggle to break free from the cycle of abuse. 

Past my bedtime,

Blue and red lights,

Come take you away,

Hate to see you like a monster,

So I run and hide...”

According to statistics, as many as 10 million children witness domestic violence each year. In the United States, in a single day (2008) 16,458 children were living in a domestic violence shelter or transitional housing facility, while an additional 6,430 children sought services at a non-residential program. (fromThe National Network to End Domestic Violence, (2009). Domestic Violence Counts 2008: A 24-hour Census of Domestic Violence Shelters and Services). And in Canada, on any given day, about 2,500 children are living in an abused woman’s shelter with their mothers (Little Eyes, Little Ears). 

Witnessing abuse includesWitnessing can mean SEEING actual incidents of physical/and or sexual abuse. It can mean HEARING threats or fighting noises from another room. Children may also OBSERVE the aftermath of physical abuse such as blood, bruises, tears, torn clothing, and broken items. Finally children may be AWARE of the tension in the home such as their mother’s fearfulness when the abuser’s car pulls into the driveway.” (Domestic Violence Roundtable) Witnessing abuse is traumatic to children, even if they are not physically hurt, and causes harmful effects on every part of a child’s life physically, emotionally, socially and developmentally. Children who witness abuse are also more likely to become involved in abusive relationships as adults (which is not limited to intimate relationships but could involve any social interaction such as: work, church/religious involvement, friendships, or a pattern of being manipulated or taken advantage of.) 

The video for “DNA”, released in 2016, shows the cycle of abuse in two parallel stories of Lia witnessing domestic violence as a child, and later experiencing it in her own life as a young adult. 

Public Domain Image:

The damage that abuse has created in Lia’s life are vividly depicted in the video for “DNA” – these are common struggles many survivors face – she is a young adult who is seeking love and attention in the wrong places. She is the life of the party whose smile hides the turmoil she feels inside. She feels depressed, anxious, insecure. Lia’s life is spinning out of control as she parties and drinks. For more info on how domestic violence affects children, please read: Children and Youth Exposed to Domestic Violence

Research has also shown that children who are exposed to violence, or are victims of violence, are at a much higher risk for entering abusive relationships in later in life – meaning the cycle of abuse continues. This is also true for Lia, who reveals in the “DNA” video, her own experiences being involved in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. Lia says about this relationship,”When I wrote this song, I was at a really low point. I saw a lot of similarities. I didn’t want to be like that.” (Lia Marie Johnson – DNA “Behind the Scenes”). The similarities are shown in the video, when images flash back and forth between Lia and her memories of her parents, where she witnessed her mother being abused by her father. The song also reflects the inner conflict Lia feels – torn between fear of her father and the love she has for him.

Lia says witnessing abuse left her with low self-esteem and feeling that she “would always be a f– up” but she later learned, that she can change her life. And what she saw in parent’s life does not have to repeat into her own. Which is true, it is possible to break the cycle of abuse. If you have been a victim of domestic violence or exposed to it, there is help, support and resources available to assist you with safety planning and other needs (please see list of Helplines below). 

Are the pieces of you

In the pieces of me

I’m just so scared

You’re who I’ll be when I erupt,

Just like you do

They look at me

Like I look at you

I won’t be, no

I won’t be like you

Fighting back,

I’m fighting back the truth …”


Additional Reading: 

Child Abuse and Neglect: How to Spot the Signs and Make a Difference

The Effects of Domestic Violence on Children (Domestic Violence Roundtable)

Little Eyes, Little Ears: How Domestic Violence Shapes Children As They Grow by Alison Cunningham & Linda Baker



National Child Abuse Hotline: 1.800.422.4453

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1.800.799.7233

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network: 1.800.656.4673

National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1.866.331.9474



(Note: I am writing this from a mother’s perspective because I am a mother.. but this could apply to anyone, male or female, who is grieving the loss of a child)

“Finding Dory” (2016, Pixar) is a touching animated movie about a fish named Dory who gets separated from her parents at a young age, and goes on a journey in search of them. Guiding Dory are the memories she has held onto all of her life. Since Dory suffers from “short term remembery loss” she is guided by only glimpses of her past, and along with it, the sense of home, and feeling of belonging.

Years pass. Dory meets new friends, including a quirky fish named Nemo, that become like family. One day, Dory’s memory gets triggered, and she is compelled to find her lost family.When Dory was young, her parents set out a trail of purple shells to teach her how to find her way back home, she follows it.  So Dory sets off on an epic journey to find her parents.


Dory’s parents spent years forming trails for her to follow – up and down valleys, across distances and through the dark currents of the ocean, in the hopes that she would eventually find them.

“Finding Dory” offers a powerful message for Protective Parents separated from their children that is familiar to those who have experienced this particular kind of pain, grief and loss.  

And for children separated from their mothers, what Dory felt may also be familiar – missing family, fear of rejection and the emotional experience of trying to piece together memories.

The purple shells are what connect Dory to her parents, and trigger the memories that eventually lead her home. The tiny shells are unremarkable in the vastness of the ocean. At times the sandy floor washes over them, and they disappear. But Dory is not alone, with the support of her friends, she finds her way.


What are your purple shells? Each parent and child has something special or shares something that links them together. It could be a physical or emotional reminder. A trinket, photograph, a prayer or special song, a drawing or toy etc

You can also create “purple shells” to honor your parent/child or to preserve special memories. Some ideas: scrap booking, releasing balloons on special occasions, lighting a candle, spiritual celebration, talking with friends/family, writing a letter etc.

Create a Path in the ways you can. Find creative ways to connect to or reach out to your parent/child if possible. Use your shells to bridge the distance. Seek support to help cope with the loss or grief.

Another message in “Finding Dory” is that Dory, and her parents, never gave up hope.The love they have for each other is unconditional. For those mothers/children who are estranged from each other, and have no contact or communication, there is a value in hope. And value in holding onto the love you share. Through love, we maintain our “purple shells”, our connection to our family – and it does not diminish with time or distance.

Also, when Dory was separated from her parents she found other ways to express her energy and love, and was able to channel her loss in a positive direction. You see that especially in her unique optimism, and her loyalty to friends. Though a loss of a parent/child can never be replaced, we can channel the expression of our love, and what that person meant to us, in other areas of our life. Or use that love to make a positive difference in the world. Some ideas: volunteer, be a friend, participate in community groups/activities, do something in memory of your loved one, fight for a cause, raise awareness, join a prayer chain etc

Final message – Never give up!

~ EJ, © 2016.

Another Perspective:  

Mother, Carrie Goldman, shares her thoughts after watching “Finding Dory” with her family. Carrie’s teen daughter was profoundly moved by the movie. Carrie shares insights from her perspective of “Finding Dory” and on her daughter’s reaction to it. Finding Dory: Why It Made My Seventh Grader Cry by Carrie Goldman


Warning: This song may be triggering, as it discusses domestic violence from a child’s perspective, and the video contains images of abuse.

“Oh Mother” is a powerful firsthand account of abuse and survival–that has really touched my heart. This is a song for battered women and protective moms from a child who has survived, and grown into an amazing woman. That child is the talented Christina Aguilera, now a mother herself.

The lyrics are haunting….
“She was so sick of believing the lies and trying to hide
Covering the cuts and bruises (cuts and bruises)
So tired of defending her life, she could have died
Fighting for the lives of her children..”

“Oh Mother” is a powerful piano ballad sung by Christina Aguilera (featured on her 5th album, “Back to Basics”, 2006). “Oh Mother” describes Christina’s childhood, growing up in a home where domestic violence was present.

Christina says, “Growing up I did not feel safe. Feeling powerless is the worst feeling in the world… I turned to singing as an outlet. The pain at home is where my love for music came from.” (Thompson, DailyMail)

Christina say that of her violent father made her family’s life “hell” and that he physically and emotionally abused her. The father denies all allegations of abuse.

Christina’s mother fled the home with Christina and her sister, taking them to live with her grandma. Christina’s parents divorced when she was 7 years old.

Christina has expressed that there is too much secrecy about domestic violence; “Oh Mother” has certainly raised awareness about abuse and the effects of violence on children. Christina dedicated this song to her mother. The video ends with a sign lit up that reads,”I Love you, Mom”.

Source: “Christina Aguilera talks about childhood hell at the hands of her violent father” by Paul Thompson, MailOnline. Spet. 23, 2009:

Wikipedia: “Oh Mother”:

This is a very interesting concept.. I would also add that I believe Domestic Violence and Stalking should be eligible for “repeat offense” penalties under the law. And if a person repeatdely commits domestic violence or stalking acts against another, they should face stiffer penalties earlier on to try to prevent abuse, and keep that person off the streets–and in jail._

Gwenyth makes a good point that with Abusers, “the central focus of the behavioral symptoms are targeted at specifically ones romantic partner and the behavioral patterns are not consistent in other situations..”

What are your thoughts on this article, and including “Abusive Personality Disorder” in the DSM-IV? Plz post your comments below.


Title: “Why not adopt an Abusive Personality Disorder diagnosis?”
Author: Gwenyth, 11/27/2012. She is an “anti-domestic violence activist”.

Like many anti-domestic violence activists I too believe that domestic violence is not an individual problem but a community problem that requires the support of the whole community to bring to an end. What I propose as a new solution to this problem it the adoption for Abusive Personality Disorder to be accepted by the mental health/social work profession, feminist scholars, anti-dating violence activists, and into the public discourse of dating violence. This would help concerned persons identify and make sense of the abuser’s patterns of behavior and help others learn how to hold the abusive person accountable for their actions.

Despite the changes over the years dating violence continues to be a major problem in US. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, dating violence is not just restricted to physical violence or single incidences of behavior but rather “the pervasive and methodical use of threats, intimidation, manipulation, and physical violence by someone who seeks power and control over their intimate partner.”

Many myths and misconceptions about the nature of domestic violence contribute to the confusion many victims, friends, family, and communities feel about how best react to the situations when they arise. However there is considerable amount of research and information that is known about the common patterns of abusive persons. If this information was more commonly known would help promote safety for victims and potential victims as well as increase accountability for abusers.

Being able to recognize the patterns of abusive persons can help persons not involved, such as police, judges, friends, and family better identify who is the abusive party and who is the victim. This is an important distinction to make as many abusive persons claim to be real victims themselves to avoid negative consequences and discredit and cast doubts on their victim’s accusations.

A personality disorder is not a biological mental illness that can be treated with medication or has on organic basis but rather it is a collection of personality traits that common happen together in personality and cause difficulty in interacting with the world or the world interacting with them. For instance, Antisocial Personality Disorder is defined by a striking lack of conscience and scary lack of empathy and indifference toward the suffering of others. Many known serial killers have been diagnosed Antisocial Personality Disorder and this has helped professionals determine who is dangerous and what prisoners are likely to reoffend.

As detailed in oft-used Power and Control Wheel of Domestic Violence which DV advocates and use to describe the common patterns of behavior employed by abusive persons and to help victims make sense of their abusers behavior. The power and control wheel is so comprehensive and accurate that is it is a great start toward agreed-upon diagnostic criteria for abusive personality disorder.

Although there are a variety of other disorders and behaviors that persons tend to try and conflate with abusive behavior, such as narcissistic personality disorder, anti-social personality disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, addictive personality disorder, bipolar disorder, and others, none of them truly encapsulates the phenomena. Many of these disorders often mimic the symptoms of abusive personality, but none of them truly account for the fact that the central focus of the behavioral symptoms are targeted at specifically ones romantic partner and the behavioral patterns are not consistent in other situations.

Critics of this approach are most commonly from the Dating Violence Community as they are afraid that the acceptance of abusive personality disorder as an actual mental health diagnosis would lead to abusers using it as an excuse, legally and otherwise, that they are not responsible for their behaviors. Although it is likely that abusers will use any excuse they can to avoid responsibility for their actions, just because it is a diagnosis doesn’t mean it is will make the legal system more lenient on them and that it will arouse much sympathy for them. Serial killers who are diagnosed with Anti-Social Personality Disorder are not given much sympathy for their condition and few consider it as justification for their actions.

The institution of an Abusive Personality Disorder diagnosis would help dispel myths about DV making abusers more easily identifiable to the public therefore leading to more accountability for abusers. It would also legitimize what domestic violence workers already know and would make these persons with abusive personalities easier to study for prevention or intervention purposes. Also, many anti-DV laws and approachs are often labeled by critics as anti-male or biased towards males, the legitimization of Abusive Personality Disorder Diagnosis simply have the abuser identified by their symptomology

A Review “What I Like About Me! A Book Celebrating Differences”

Author: Allia Zobel-Nolan

Illustrator: Miki Sakamoto

Publisher: Reader’s Digest Children’s Books: Pleasantville, NY. 2010.

Genre: Children’s Books, Board Books. Age range 2-8, but suitable for all ages. The message and bright colors would also appeal to older kids, and teens.


“This fun-loving book proves to kids that, in a world where fitting in is the norm, being different is what makes us special” — From the back cover.

“What I Like About Me” is a lyrical, silly children’s book that reads like a child skipping through a park on a windy, spring day.

The message is very endearing. “What I Like About Me” praises the unique, one of a kind characteristics of “Me”–the unibrow, big ears that wiggle, braces, and big feet are all given a loving tribute. The book is beautifully illustrated with bold colors, expressive faces and humorous touches. “Me” is portrayed in the faces of children from all backgrounds, who romp and play throughout the pages. This book is upbeat, and leaves room for parents to add their own creative touches when reading to their child.

For a child who has been abused, bullied or feels different in any way–this book will be especially inspiring. Qualities that may cause children to be teased, or bullied, are celebrated in this book. Also, one of the neat aspects of “What I Like About Me” is that it shows children how to reframe their thoughts, or the messages given to them to turn a negative into a positive, and to celebrate their individuality. The silly rhyme and humor will appeal to children, and get them thinking at the same time.

I highly recommend “What I Like About Me: A Book Celebrating Differences”, and hope you enjoy it as much as I do! 🙂 EJ Perth, 2012


Allia Zobel  Nolan Author Page:


Sophie is an incredibly cute little girl with two blonde braids that stand straight out like antlers and a spray of freckles on her nose but when she gets angry…waaaatch ooouut!

When Sophie Gets Angry” by Molly Bang is a colorful, child friendly book about a little girl who fights with her sister, has a tantrum and learns to soothe herself until she feels calm again.

There are alot of things I like about “Sophie”: The pictures are alot of fun, they almost look like they were made with fingerpaint. The book lets kids know it is okay to be angry, and shows them positive ways to deal with emotions . It’s an easy read that could appeal from an age group of 2-10. The book depicts family as warm and nurturing, and shows that when people disagree they can still find a way to get along (in a realistic language, not pie-in-the-sky ideals). Not to mention the author’s name is so cute..Molly BANG!

Her temper, is what makes Sophie so loveable. When my daughter read “Sophie”, her high, girlish voice was so cute dropping into a gruff tone , “Oh, Sophie is ever angry now!”  My daughter perfected the “Sophie” glare: chubby arms crossed over her chest, her eyebrows knit into a sharpened arrow, her lip pushed out in a tough pout. The tension lasted for but a second when we all fell on the floor laughing at this perfect depiction of “Sophie”.

My son loved to act out all the dramatic parts–Sophie stomping her foot when her sister stole the toy gorilla, roaring like a dragon, Sophie throwing her arms to run back into the warmth of home… Difficult feelings became funny and easy to talk about because of Sophie. When my kids read about Sophie’s tantrum and what she did to soothe herself  (they have memorized every line in the book!), it took time but slowly my kids were better able to identify when their feelings felt really big (hard to control) and when to ask for help. And I learned to listen to my children’s cues because they did not always have the words.

And for a child that has been abused, like my children have been, “Sophie” shows that anger does not have to be scary, you can control your feelings–and chose other ways of expressing yourself than hurting other people.

I highly recommend “Sophie“.

See a preview online at:

Source: “When Sophie Gets Angry–Really, Really Angry…” by Molly Bang.   Publisher The Blue Sky Press – United States, 1999.

Molly Bang Online:

Questions & Answers for when Sophie Gets Angry:

I  made the mistake of bring my kids to Where the Wild Things Are, it was the WORST movie experience of my life! Spike Jonze should be ashamed of directing this movie, which is not kid friendly!!   My son actually begged to leave the movie before it ended, and all of us came out feeling depressed. I ended up spending more money, than the cost of the actual ticket, doing things to cheer my kids up—and make them forget the movie! My recommendation—STAY AWAY!!!

Where the Wild Things Are is a really depressing movie that is filmed mostly outdoors in Australia and in a gray-violet lens, and the budget looks like they spent only $100 with the cheap costumes, that became dirtier with each passing scene. I was seriously tempted to throw Max’s costume in the washing machine after 15 minutes of this movie!

The soundtrack for this movie was also terrible, most of the songs sounded like something out of a 1960’s commune and were equally as depressing. I really can’t think of anything I liked about this movie, and the only reason my daughter wanted to stay was because she enjoys torturing her brother. In fact, my son and I begged my daughter to leave then resorted to bribing her so she would agree to get out the door!!! When I promised my daughter she could have ice-cream and cereal for supper, she finally relented and agreed to go.

Where the Wild Things Are is a story about a little boy named Max who has a pretty miserable life—his Dad is missing or dead, his older sister picks on him and his mom is pretty much working all the time then playing kissy face with her boyfriend. Finally, one day, Max explodes (which is pretty funny—he jumps on the counter when his mom is making dinner and yells, “Woman feed me!”) and runs away from home. He gets on a boat and winds up on an island inhabited by fake-puppet monsters with weird names. All the monsters are seriously dysfunctional and constantly fight with each other. There are more than a few sexual innuendos with the monsters as well, and some harsh language. They also try to eat Max, which is a pretty scary scene that caused my son to hide. Max becomes king of the monsters and one depressing thing after another happens until we finally leave. My son sums up the whole movie, “Everything bad happens Mom.”

After I left this stupid movie, my kids and I had a great day playing in the snow. I then took them to the grocery store and let them pick out any treat they wanted—which was cake mix with sprinkle frosting. So we baked a cake, listened to “Veggie Tales” and tried to have a normal night. I hope they weren’t too traumatized by Where the Wild Things Are…and I don’t even care how it ended.

My thoughts about this movie… Don’t bother! If you like Maurice Sendak, stick to Little Bear.

E.J., 2010.

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