Jennifer Ritterhouse is associate professor of history at George Mason University. She is editor of Sarah Patton Boyle's The Desegregated Heart: A Virginian's Stand in Time of Transition and coeditor of the award-winning Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated South.
From the age of 3, Vanessa lived in daily terror of her mother's unpredictable rage. If she was 'naughty', her mother would lash out at her – with beatings, torture, starvation and making Vanessa sleep in their garden's pigsty, tied up like an animal. Her mother said her punishments were God's revenge on her for being the devil's child. Her father lived in denial of her suffering.
When she was 6 years old, Vanessa's grandfather began to sexually abuse her – to her despair, aided and abetted by both her mother and grandmother. At eight years old, she then discovered that the 'mother' who hated her so much had adopted her as a baby and would never love her as her own.
At the most horrific times of Vanessa's abuse, she nearly lost all hope that she would escape her prison, until mysterious things started to happen to her that allowed her to fight back.
This is the story of how Vanessa survived a childhood that nearly destroyed her and how her secret led her out of the horrors of her past.
Cruel To Be Kind is the true story of Max, aged 6. He is fostered by Cathy while his mother is in hospital with complications from type 2 diabetes. Fostering Max gets off to a bad start when his mother, Caz, complains and threatens Cathy even before Max has moved in. Cathy and her family are shocked when they first meet Max. But his social worker isn’t the only one in denial; his whole family are too.
In Please Don’t Take My Baby, Jade, 17, is pregnant, homeless and alone when she’s brought to live with Cathy. Jade is desperate to keep her baby, but little more than a child herself, she struggles with the responsibilities her daughter brings.
Cathy knows that Jade loves her daughter with all her heart, but will she be able to get through to Jade in time to make her realise just how much she might lose?
I Miss Mummy is the true story of Alice, aged four, who is snatched by her mother the day she is due to arrive at Cathy's house. Drug-dependent and mentally ill, but desperate to keep hold of her daughter, Alice's mother takes her from her parents' house and disappears.