Art in many forms is one way to express and cope with the emotional consequences of child abuse including writing, voice, and visual arts. The latter media are used when words alone do not express the emotional disruption that occurs from a maltreated brain.


Alan Cumming, a performance artist in a number of Broadway shows, wrote a memoir titled “Not My Father’s Son.” In it he recounts his growing up on an estate in Scotland where his father was the head forester. He was a strict disciplinarian who his employees referred to as “the meister.” Alan and his brother worked for the meister doing grueling chores and always feared his rages that frequently ended in a beating. For example, on one occasion Alan (age 12) suffered a severe injury from a sheep shears that left him bleeding and half bald. This certainly constitutes harsh physical child abuse as discussed throughout this web site. As is typical for survivors, he wrote his book after his father’s death that appears to have provided him with an important catharsis as survivors do not become fully aware of the significance of their abuse until late in adolescence (20-25) or well into adulthood. Susanna Schrobsdorff wrote a short and intriguing piece on his life for Time Magaine (October 2, 2014).

Artistic Commentary on the Survivor Experience

​Lady Gaga’s (Stefanie Germanotta’s) 2014 Oscar performance of “Till It Happens to You” raises a number of important starting points and is worth watching as we set the stage for the neuroscience of abuse

Visual Arts

Self-portraits provide a window into the experience of survivors via their very personal facial expressions. Here we have one from a 20 year old who suffered severe beatings between the ages of 7 and 15 titled “Dead Birds Fly.” One gets an ominous sense of desperation and a likely underlying depressive disorder and negative view of life events.Unlike cancers and other body diseases, diseases of the brain cannot be seen and so are often overlooked or misinterpreted by the relatively normal (not brain damaged) community. Added to the self-portrait are two ovals with depictions of neurons and a medial surface with coding for responses to rectal stimuli.

​Another issue that arises from harsh physical child abuse is referred to as self-injury or cutting that is most frequent in young girls. This piece shows the isolation and helplessness evoked by abuse and the feeling of desperation and isolation that could lead to serious self-injury; here it is expressed visually. It is also possible that extensive tattooing that some psychopaths engage in is a form of cutting in adult males.


This photograph of two sides of a sculpture (bronz, 1.5ʹ high) by a young sculptress that followed the guiding hand of a survivor shows a perspective on life development.

On the left is a pregnant woman including the foot of a child. On the right is a naked woman (neglectful mother) faced by a tiger with teeth bared and claws exposed around her.

The tiger’s ribs are fingers of the controlling and abusive father. At the top is a representation of an adolescent with wings about to be unfurled. His head is an unformed block representing an optimistic sign that there is unfinished developmental work to be done.

If you would like to make an artistic contribution with an explanation, we will post it as a continuation of these works.