Domestic violence is a jail with many rooms of torture, including a delivery room for child abuse, neglect and addictions.
Not all victims are born in a violent home but millions of their children are.
Growing up, the only family members more vulnerable than me were the animals.
I knew I was in prison. I tried to escape from the time I was able to walk to the day I broke free thirty-five years later.
I tried to find shelter. I gravitated to kind, loving families that didn’t hurt one another.
Neighbors told stories about me showing up uninvited at their family functions, climbing up on laps, sneaking into their cars when they tried to go somewhere, sitting at their dinner table, climbing into bed for story time and staying way past bedtime. I didn’t go home until the parents walked me to the door and told me to go.
My parents never came looking for me. They never noticed I was gone and I always tried to sneak back to the neighbors.
While my father never laid a hand on my mother he took his anger out on his children. He beat us to exhaustion using his fists, his belt or whatever else he found. While my father may have accidentally killed us, I was never sure whether my mother was trying to kill us.
My mother always said she “never wanted all these children.” And I often wondered if she was trying to eliminate us.
My mother could be generous, warm and forgiving but there was always a consequence to her kindness. Her anger was unpredictable. We were never out of her clutches when her mood changed. We never had a chance to run or protect ourselves.
My mother spilled boiling water on my brother. He was a toddler. I’d like to believe it was accident but she was angry and had that look in her eye. His screams broke her out of her trance and she stripped him down to reduce the injuries. To this day she’d probably continue to blame my brother and the rest of us for the incident.
She admitted to hitting another brother so hard he passed out after hitting the workbench. She thought she killed him.
Her violence was unpredictable. When I pierced my ear my mother was in a really good mood and didn’t care. After the hole healed she took me to get my ears pierced and bought me lots of earrings. She made my older sister wait until she was sixteen.
However the day I was able to change out of the starter earrings, she gave me a bath, snuggled with me on her bed and then her mood changed. She accused me of shaving my legs and began beating me with her shoes. She said she wouldn’t stop until I admitted I shaved my legs. And she took my new earrings. I didn’t get them back for several years. This incident would come up again and again. Even when I reached adulthood my mother ruin every sweet moment with insisting I admit I shaved my legs.
I wasn’t a perfect child. I pierced my ear, drew on walls, toys etc…, cut my dolls hair, found and opened the Christmas presents, killed our goldfish, stole candy from the store, squeezed the dogs too tight, lied, drank beer and whiskey sours, cut my finger off, stole cookies from the cupboard, fought with my siblings, ran away from home, didn’t do my homework, and laugh and cheered when my brothers tortured my sister.
But I didn’t shave my legs.
My mother was always overly generous with Christmas. She spent too much money buying everyone exactly what they wanted but we didn’t get to keep our gifts after she threw a fit on Christmas, declaring us all ungrateful. My father lined us up for a Christmas beating. I thought the year I got my earrings was going to be my best Christmas ever. I guess I was wrong.
My mother was very good at pitting my sister and me against each other. I was the favorite child. She called my sister a “whore” and a “slut.” She said all of her children were failures.
Our mother never attended our sporting events. She dropped us off and usually forgot to pick us up.
My mother was a registered nurse. She fed us food she knew we were allergic to. And was very slow to seek medical attention, often doing something to make the situation worse before seeking treatment.
While my mother seemed sad at my brothers’ funerals, she also seemed relieved. She said the strangest things such as she “never wanted all these children.”. After my brother committed suicide, she told another son she always thought he was the one who would kill himself.
Her brother was violent. I remember seeing my mother and her father all battered and bruised after my uncle beat them up.
I guess that is enough about my mother. I can’t write about her without bringing on a major panic attack, smelling the blood of my youth and turning my stomach and throat on fire. I see images of bloody noses, black eyes, busted lips and blood running down our legs.
Two families admitted “everyone” knew my siblings and I had it “hard”. They saw the bruises, the belt welts and scabs on our legs and arms. They heard the yelling. They heard the screams.
Why didn’t anyone intervene? Why didn’t anyone say anything? Why did they keep coming over to play cards? Why would they be friends with them?
I told teachers and neighbors what happened but they thought my stories were funny and told my mother.
I tried to run away. My family had lots of stories about times I disappeared during vacations but someone always brought me back.
I never found any of these stories funny and I can’t recall my parents ever indicating they were worried about me or looked for me.
My siblings abused me physically and sexually.
An adult neighbor put his hands down my pants. I never walked past his house again.
I sneaked out the door, got down the street, hung out at the river but when it got dark the same question plagued me all my life…where would I go? I had no food, no shelter and no one was willing to take me in.
Children can’t save themselves.
I had to return to the prison I called home.
There were a few safe places where God joined me – my closet, under my covers and my mind. I was safe at school. I was safe at church. God protected my sanity by allowing me to escape, to store all the garbage and pain.
The cycle jumped to the next generation. My brother broke his wife’s jaw and everyone joked about it around the Thanksgiving table.
I didn’t know how to have a healthy relationship. I was 70% sane when not in a relationship and 70% crazy when I met someone. I dated a few good guys mixed with lots of scary ones. But I ran from them.
My brother’s friends raped me. I told my parents and brother. They called me a liar and beat me up.
I never saw a door to freedom until I was 21 years old and a senior in college. An awesome counselor identified the abuse. He gave me my safety plan – get independent, run and never look back.
I tried to make it. I was paroled for awhile, was released to attend school, spent time in the yard, pretended to be free but the prison of my birth held me captive until age 35.
Only with help, support and a place to go was I able to finally run and never look back.
Why did I stay with my abusive family? I had no place else to go.
* Millions of children exposed to domestic violence
* Children can’t save themselves
* See abuse, report it
* Intervention works
* Abused? You’re not alone.
Report Child Abuse Resources:
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)