Dave is David Peltzer, a young boy who was horrifically abused by his mother, in the book, A Child Called "It".
As David's mother sinks deep in alcoholism and possible psychosis, her abuse of Dave escalates. His father, who Dave had hoped would rescue him, tries to intervene early on, but eventually escapes into alcoholism as well. It appears Dave was abused more "actively" than his siblings; ultimately, Dave is completely isolated from the entire family, while his mother even stops calling him by his name, hence the book's title. She starves, burns, stabs and even tries to poison Dave.
Dave, however, is determined to live. Not getting enough food at home, he steals from other students' lunches, but when word gets back to his mother, the abuse intensifies, and he is rarely fed. Dave does his best to accomplish what is asked of him by his mother, including some, and eventually most, of the household chores. The reader gets the sense that Dave tries to be tough, and displays great courage, even in light of his age. It is easy to imagine that many other children, under like circumstances, would not have survived a similar situation.
It is only through the intervention of the principal and teaching staff at his school, who notice signs of abuse, that Dave is finally removed from his home.