2.20.2014

Thursday Thoughts: I Was a Victim of Domestic Violence



This post has been a long time coming. Maybe you read this post here about my Life with 5 Dads or have read a mention here or there about my past history with abuse. But the truth is, I've never really divulged what my life was actually like from ages 10 to 16 and I think it's about time I did. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about abuse. I think people shy away from addressing domestic violence because it makes them uncomfortable.

The summer after fifth grade, my Dad suffered a massive stroke that left him a disabled shell of the man I had grown up with. It was just a few months after he and my Mom filed for a divorce. For most kids, the divorce would have been traumatizing enough, but even at a young age, I think I subconsciously knew that my parents were different than most. There was no PDA in our house, my Dad chose not to accompany us on our trip to Disneyworld and slept on the couch every night. So although I'm sure there were tears shed (I don't actually remember my Mom telling us), it wasn't a huge shock.

Following their divorce, my Mom started seeing a younger man that was on the fringes of her group of friends. He was charismatic, fun-loving and the life of the party- pretty much everything my Dad never was. They were dating by the time my Dad had his stroke and I imagine he was a great comfort to my Mom while she dealt with the divorce aftermath and helping her girls to understand that our Daddy was never going to be the same.

Some time later, that man accompanied us on our family's annual trip to Cape May, NJ. Although my Grandma made it completely apparent that she loathed the man (especially after he called my little sister stupid when she couldn't cut her meat correctly at dinner), he proposed and my Mom accepted. I didn't know what it was, but I never trusted him right from the beginning. I don't know if it was purely from loyalty to my father, or if even at a young age, I could see through his bullshit.

My mom and he were married September 11, 1999. Yes, exactly two years prior to 9/11. I think it was some kind of sick irony that they were married on this of all days. While things went generally smoothly for the first couple years, we did learn a few things.

For one, we quickly learned the various stages of drunk step-dad. If he cranked up the Grateful Dead and let his hair down to dance around the living room- he was smashed. And chances were, things were going to go south not long after.

Secondly, we learned that step-dad really didn't like kids and he had no patience in regard to slumber parties. One night, after my girlfriend and I were giggling obnoxiously after we had already been warned once to go to bed, step-dad came to my door, grabbed my upper arm, lifting me off the ground and pointed his finger in my face and screamed at me not to make another noise. My friend was horrified and apologized to me while I sat weeping and defended him, stating he "didn't know his own strength."

Fucking bullshit. Of course he knew his own strength. Which is why he used it against us and I had the bruise to remind me for a solid month after the fact.

Third, step-dad really liked a clean house. However, we could clean the entire house from top to bottom and it would still be considered dirty if the carpet was not vacuumed. One day, Kelly (my sister) and I were putting the finishing touches on the house after school and had just started the vacuum when his Blazer came barreling up the driveway. He was furious that the carpet was not yet done, and spanked us both to the point where my little sister peed herself. He proceeded to throw us outside to bide our time until our Mom arrived home. This incident was nothing compared to the time he chased Kelly around the house with a broomstick and bent it over her small frame.

Sadly, those were only the beginning years.

Over time, step-dad got more and more depressed, drank more and more, and was utterly sick of our presence in his home. Shouting was usually a regular occurrence in our house after a night of drinking. But one night I laid in bed and could hear thumping against the walls of our the hallway outside my bedroom door. The screams of my mother shouting "My neck, my neck!" as step-dad yanked her around by her hair pierced through my brain and I spent the rest of the night curled up in a corner of my closet terrified that I would be next.

One night, my Mom came to pick us up after we had spent the evening playing at our local rec center. I immediately sensed something was wrong when I got into the front seat and my Mom refused to look at me. I was even more confused when she turned left out of the parking lot to head out of town, rather than making a right that would take us on a short trip back home. We wound up heading to a friend of my Mom's. My mother stayed downstairs and her friend immediately came to the room where we were staying to ask if Kelly and I were okay. Confused, we answered that we were fine and shielded our panic. It wasn't until the morning that we discovered my Mom's black-eye.

Step-dad had punched my Mom in the face.

A woman less than half his size. He had gotten drunk, angry and punched her in the face.

I wish I could say this was the only time this happened, but it wasn't.

If you asked me, these moments, while scary were not the worst parts of living with an abusive alcoholic. The worst parts were the constant fear and hopelessness. The feeling that you have something to be ashamed of. The feeling that you are never safe in your own home.

You read and hear often in stories of domestic abuse the question asked, "Why doesn't she just leave him?" My Mom obviously, did eventually leave him, or rather he thwarted our plans of escape by kicking us out of his house. But it wasn't easy. My Mom did not have the means to support all three of us on her own. So she stayed. Longer than she should have. But she stayed because she had no other options.

Looking at me, you probably wouldn't guess my past abuse. I'm a happily married woman, with the world's sweetest husband. I'm college-educated and work 40 hours a week trying to feed the hungry. I don't fit any kind of "battered woman" stereotype. But therein lies the truth- abuse truly can happen to anyone.

When I took a Creative Writing class in college, my professor confessed he had issues with anxiety, and reading my writing made it worse. At one point we had a one-on-one discussion and he asked me if I considered myself a happy person. At the time, I answered no. He countered my admission with a thought that has stuck with me after all these years. He told me I was wrong. I was a happy person. I was a happy person who had been through some serious shit and I needed to write about it. I needed to write about it for the people who could relate. For the people who wanted someone to put words to their feelings of pain and despair. I needed to write about it for the people who couldn't relate. I needed to help them understand what abuse looks and feels like.

So today, I'm writing about it.

I was a victim of domestic violence.

But not anymore. If you've ever wondered where my blog name comes from, it's simple. Surviving the hard stuff made the small blessings so much more apparent. I am thankful to God for every day that I wake up in a home that is safe. I thank God that I married a man who couldn't hurt a fly. I thank God for rescuing me from that danger and despair. And I thank God for bring my family closer together because of it.

I may have been a victim of domestic violence. But today, I'm just a girl who believes in (Bee)autiful Blessings.



20 comments:

  1. Sounds like you had a terrifying childhood, but it's amazing to see where you are now, and how you let your bad situation influence you in a positive way. I love that picture . . . it shows how happy you really are :)

    ashleynicoleholmes.blogspot.com

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  2. Wow. I'm not sure what else to say but this post is incredible.

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  3. This post is so heartbreaking and beautiful all at the same time. I'm so happy you shared it!

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  4. Kaity - I am at a loss for words (rare, I know). Knowing you, your mom and Kelly, I am even more convinced that our God is an awesome God. He rescued all of you and your honest words will rescue others. I am so sorry for your past. I am so excited for your present and your future (for all 3 of you!). Philippians 3:13. Don't forget to the point that you don't discern (you won't; you can't and shouldn't). You obviously have forgotten to the point you that you trust (again). For that, I am thankful. I love you so much. And p.s. - that is my favorite picture of you and Chuck!

    M.S.

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  5. That was a very touching post! I started tearing up. You are a gifted writer, and I"m glad you've decided to share your story!

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  6. You have an incredibly strong story, and I'm so glad you shared it. Very beautifully written.

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  7. wow thanks for sharing. it's amazing that you could write about this and put a positive spin on it.

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  8. I don't really have much to say about this besides thank you. Thank you for sharing a part of your life with us, thank you for being so open, and thank you for approaching a "taboo" subject.

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  9. That is terrifying. I'm sorry you had to go through that, but love your outlook. And love that picture. :) I went through something similar & I am thankful now... after the fact... because it changed me in some positive ways. But it also changed me in some negative ways.

    There was no physical abuse, but lots of verbal & emotional abuse. My mom was clinically depressed & bipolar (but not on meds... she didn't believe in them at the time). She also was very very hurt & taking that on everyone around her. We walked on egg shells & i was often absolutely terrified. God has worked in her life so much over the last decade that we now have a wonderful relationship & I cannot even believe she is the same person as the one she was then. But wow. I grew up in fear, and as a teenager & through my early twenties, i battled a lot of self-hate, low self-esteem, depression & anxiety, all because of the words used towards me & my sister while we were growing up. Ranting & raving & screaming at us all the time. I still deal with some of the effects from that. But i have certainly come a long way, thanks to the Lord. :)

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  10. I, too, had an abusive stepfather. I tried, one time, to write about it...but was concerned how my mom would feel if I would post the piece on my blog. I sent it to her in advance, as a courtesy. She was so, so upset. Upset that I remembered the abuse; that I would 'shame' her by sharing our story; that I couldn't just 'forget' it happened. Needless to say, I never posted the piece. But I'm grateful to people like you who bravely share their stories to give voice and validation to the experiences of so many others; for words that let others know that as brutal as domestic violence is, there's beauty in surviving it, and there's something less lonely about having gone through it, knowing that others have endured similarly terrifying experiences. Thank you, and I don't know you but I'm proud of you.

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  11. Wow. Speechless.

    Lisa Solar

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  12. Thank you for sharing your brutiful brave!

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  13. I love your story (with a happy ending) and was stunned at the nine eleven reference. I too wrote, in My Messy Beautiful essay, a reference to that date. Not the reference that everyone knows about, but my own private memory from that date. I guess it's not so private now being conncected with Momastery.com Thank you for sharing!

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  14. Wow. Just wow. Thank you for sharing your heart. I'm so ecstatic you came out the other side and are able to use your pain for good.

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  15. Your story could be my story. Your home life growing up was almost exactly like mine. Abusive, violent stepfather. Laying in bed at night, listening to the violence. Wondering what would be next -- how bad it would be next time. I've tried to explain this to people (the very few I've spoken about it with), but you're so right -- it's not the abuse that's the worst. For me, it was waiting for it -- the feeling of constantly reading his moods, being prepared for what he might be like when he came home, teetering on the brink of the next explosion, constantly being on guard.

    Thanks for sharing your story. It's truly always nice to know it wasn't just MY house where this happened.

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  16. Wow! Beautifully written, thank you for sharing!!

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  17. Thank you for sharing this again on your blog today. I'm a fairly new reader, so I had no idea you were a survivor of domestic violence. I'm so glad that your mom was eventually able to leave him. Most people don't understand how truly challenging that can be. Thank you for opening up about something so horrible and painful. While it is never a survivor's responsibility to educate the world on domestic violence, your strength and honesty can help other people.

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  18. What a well-written, beautiful, open, courageous thing to share. I am a big believer that many people have faced challenges, obstacles, less-than-ideal...and sometimes have horrific, scary experiences in their lives. How we deal with these parts of our lives are HUGE. The key. What defines us in the future. I'm so thrilled to read your survivor story, and the blessings that fill your life today. I hope your mom and sister have found some peace as well.

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