Is there something about your past that you don’t like to bring up or let people know about because then it seems to define you? You are not your past and although we all logically know this, sometimes we can’t help ourselves. We are all guilty of it to some degree. The new friend that turns down a glass of wine because he or she is a recovering alcoholic… We feel sorry for them, appalled that they could ever be so out-of-control or we feel guilty for having our own glass. The list goes on.
Well, I have one of those “things” that I don’t bring up to just anyone. I have fought for the cause and I have educated people but my personal stories were either omitted or portrayed hypothetically in a Jane Doe sort of way. This year I have realized something. By not sharing my personal experiences I am not only allowing it to still have power over me but I am perpetuating the shame and pain that keeps others from speaking up about their experiences and situation. No more.
This may be one of the hardest posts that I ever write so please bear with me… Nothing like just ripping off the Band-Aid so shall we? I grew up in a domestically abusive home with my father abusing my mother which later resulted in one terrifying night of abuse of me when I turned 18. Some of these events are stories I have shared a thousand times without truly taking ownership of them for fear of the exposure and vulnerability of such a thing. If I am unwilling to lay claim to my story then how can I expect other to speak out and get help? I don’t want to continue the cycle of secrecy and violence. There is so much to share, however, that there is no way I could ever fit it all into one small post, but my hope is that by sharing this condensed set of experiences that it will help at least one person get out of their situation.
Some of my earliest memories are ones of terror. I remember being held in the back seat of a car one night (when I couldn’t have been more than four) by my mom as my uncle busted out the window behind us with a baseball bat. Glass shattered around us until we eventually got away and made it to a crappy motel that night (in the glass-filled car).
My terror wasn’t just outside of the home, either. I would see and hear my parents fighting at night. I heard the shattered dishes. I saw my mother’s black eyes. I was there as a kitchen table was flipped at my very small feet. I saw the handprints on her neck and the burn marks on here arms. I know what it is to feel helpless and terrified, wanting so badly to help but unable to move.
There is more to it, however, than just the violence. There is a sickness that surrounds the entire relationship. That sickness is the reason that I got in trouble from my parents when my grandmother manipulated my six-year-old mind into telling her why my mom was really “sick” (read: trying to hide bruises). That sickness is also the reason that after witnessing the shadows on the wall of my father holding a shotgun to my mom’s head I was told for years that I must have dreamed it.
Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, the abuse was not limited to my mom. If my brother or I could not find the mate to one of our shoes, the entire box of shoes would be dumped on our heads. If my 7-year-old brother laughed at something my father said the wrong way, he would be yanked from the couch by his arm like a rag doll. I once walked to the store to get milk at the age of eleven and upon purchasing it, put the change in the grocery bag. Crossing the parking lot that bag ripped and the money flew everywhere as I scrambled to retrieve it. Once I returned home, apparently five dollars was missing. My father was enraged and ran after me as I fled to my room and threw myself onto the bed. I remember thinking in that moment that I was going to die. This man was going to kill me. In the first true show of strength I had ever seen in my mom, she threw herself across me, shielding me, telling him that he would hurt me over her dead body. I remember briefly thinking, “What a stupid thing to say. Now he’s going to kill us both.” But he didn’t. In fact, he turned and stormed away.
What is the worst part about all of this? For a long time I had no idea that there was anything wrong with our family. Secrecy plays such a huge role in domestically abusive relationships. I was forced to pretend like everything was okay so I just assumed that everyone else was doing the same. That is where the true power lies. Chances are that many of you know that October is breast cancer awareness month. How many of you know that it is also domestic violence awareness this month?
And that is the true root of the problem. That is how deep-seeded the sick secrecy is of the matter. That is why the cycle of abuse continues generation after generation. I want to break the silence. I am starting right here and right now. Every Friday in October there will be a new post about domestic violence from interviews with victims to places and tips to get help. I am asking you to help me take a stand and say no more! No more tolerance. No more secrecy. No more cycle. Break the cogs and the machine breaks down. Break the machine with me and save a life.