What Happened in the Woodshed

The Secret Lives of Battered Children and a New Profession to Protect Them

by Lawrence R. Ricci, MD
Foreword by Stephen Ludwig, MD


Each year, more than one million children—more than 3,000 every day—are abused in the United States.

Print Flyer
Cover image for What Happened in the Woodshed

March 2018


Pages 167
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Current Events and Issues/Society
  Current Events and Issues/Health and Medicine

A riveting exposé of child abuse in America and how the newest breed of pediatricians determines what happened, why, and at whose hands.

Although more than one million children are abused each year in the United States, child abuse often remains a secret to family members, professionals, and politicians who neither see nor understand it. Child abuse pediatricians are the newest breed of pediatricians, specialized in exposing abuse. With detective-like acumen, child abuse pediatricians deduce through careful medical analysis who has abused and who has been abused. Describing the most compelling cases among the thousands that they have evaluated, author Lawrence Ricci reveals the trauma, pain, disability, and sometimes death that abused children experience at the hands of trusted adults.

This gripping look at the dark side of American families is about good parents and poor ones, perpetrators and victims, and collateral victims such as innocent family members. It is also about the professionals who have made it their career to expose child abuse and to treat children who have suffered from it. The conclusion calls for systematic changes that could help to stem the tide of child abuse.


  • Explains how signs of abuse can be missed by professionals, community members, and even family members
  • Includes interviews and insights from more than two dozen child abuse pediatricians
  • Addresses physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, including abuse by neglect and abuse due to Munchausen syndrome by proxy
  • Details how cases can go wrong in court rooms when confuscation by defense attorneys overpowers evidence brought to court by child abuse pediatricians
  • Offers ideas for stemming the tide of child abuse
Author Info

Lawrence R. Ricci, MD, is board certified in pediatrics and child abuse pediatrics. He is clinical professor of pediatrics, Tufts University School of Medicine, and an active member of the medical staff of The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center, in Portland, Maine, where, in addition to evaluating inpatients for abuse, he trains medical students and pediatric residents in pediatric advocacy. Ricci is also medical director of the Spurwink Child Abuse Program in Portland, Maine, a statewide referral center that he founded in 1994. The program evaluates more than 1,000 children and 250 adults annually.



"These are fascinating and wrenching accounts from the pioneers on the front lines of one of our most challenging child welfare problems. Great book."—David Finkelhor, Director, Crimes against Children Research Center, University of New Hampshire

“A fascinating, shocking, moving, and ultimately uplifting work. While we may be tempted to despair at the harm that adults are prepared to inflict on the children in their care, the compassion, fortitude, and integrity of the expert physicians involved in protecting young people should give us hope. What Happened in the Woodshed is essential reading for parents, educators, medical professionals—indeed, anyone who cares about the welfare of our young people. In other words, this is a book for all of us.”
—John Connolly, Best-selling author of the Charlie Parker novels; author of The Book of Lost Things;
and winner of the 2012 Agatha Award and the 2014 Edgar Award, among others

"What Happened in the Woodshed is a unique and valuable addition to our understanding of child maltreatment. I cannot think of another book that provides the compelling and insightful perspective Lawrence R. Ricci captures in his presentation of how physicians recognize, respond to, and cope with the maltreatment of children."—Richard J. Gelles, PhD, Joanne and Raymond Welsh Chair of Child Welfare and Family Violence, University of Pennsylvania; Author, Out of Harm’s Way: Creating an Effective Child Welfare System

In the News

Portland Press Herald, Bill Nemitz: Gov. LePage, of all people, has no excuse for ignoring child abuse, 3/2/2018

Look Inside

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Child Abuse and Neglect Worldwide cover imageViolence against Girls and Women cover imageSexual Abuse in the Catholic Church cover image
Healing from the Trauma of Childhood Sexual Abuse cover imageBreaking Free, Starting Over cover imageProtecting Our Kids? cover image

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