I am going to talk about a subject that I have had personal experience with first hand on more then one level. I am sharing my story in hopes that someone may see this, and/or share this and it helps them see that Domestic Violence is not OK and that it affects everyone and unfortunately sometimes it can end up deadly. From the eyes of a child.
The man that I called Dad only missed one day of work to go to his fathers funeral. He had to start work at a young age to help his mother raise his siblings. He had 2 years of college at TCU after serving in the Army in WW ll. Before going into the service I was told he never smoked but did enjoy an occasional drink. After the war he started smoking and drinking more. He never spoke about the war. Could this have been PTSD? I do know he suffered severe depression.
I remember watching him when I was young. I could see it in his eyes and how he would sit and drink his coffee in the morning, sipping and thinking. It was as thou he was someplace else. Was he reliving his childhood, the war or just sitting in his own misery.
When he drank he became a totally different person. He would yell very loud and throw things, threaten my mom, myself and my siblings. You never knew what would upset him so it was difficult to try to avoid anything that would cause it. I found myself trying to tell jokes or making sure the dishes were done, even making sure his favorite radio station was playing just to keep things calm.
He became physically violent often. By living in that volatile environment any intuition I possessed became more intense and heightened out of necessity and survival. For that I am forever grateful.
The fights would always start over what I now know as stupid little shit. What she was wearing, how the house was cleaned, shit even over mixed vegetables that he thought was succotash and it was only peas, carrots and green beans, heck everyone knows you have to have Lima beans in that to qualify it as "succotash" I used to lay in bed at night listening to my mom on the phone with him and he was yelling at her and she would hang up and he would call back. This would go on for hours at night when he was at work. He worked till 1130 pm. I knew if the phone calls started then I would not sleep that night.
He had a pattern of going to the bar after work and drinking and then would come home drunk ready to continue the fight and that would often become violent. So I used to take off my pajamas and get dressed, even put my shoes on. I would lay there and listen for him to come home and be prepared to play "possum" and be asleep if he opened the door to check on us. Most nights it was a school night. I would lie in bed and listen to hear how the back door came open when he came home and could tell by the way he shut the door and how his shoes hit the floor if he was going to fall asleep watching Perry Mason at a deafening volume or continue the fight with my mom. I learned to tell by the way he talked and even how he inflicted his words if it was time to get ready to get up and run or fall asleep. I spent most of my 18 years in that environment.
At the time domestic violence was not even talked about. No one spoke of it. My mom would even tell us not to say anything for fear of repercussion. None of my classmates or teachers knew he beat the shit out of my mom on a regular basis.They did not realize why I had trouble focusing on class, not because I was "dumb" but because I was exhausted. They even labeled me as learning challenged. ( I graduated with honors from college) I did not have any true friends growing up. I could not bring them home. I did not want them to see how I lived and was fearful they may find out our secret or that he would yell at them too.
I did go to the homes of some of the my classmates. I even had one girl's mother tell her daughter that she thought I was a bad influence on her and told her she could not hang out with me anymore because she thought I was weird. Honestly it took me years to figure out what a normal family looked like behind closed doors. I know now it was a reflection of how I lived and my environment. But I have to laugh now because that girl who's mother ran me off, Mennonite family, later just out of high school had a one night stand in a bar and had to move back home to raise the her child.
My mom was also a sensitive and an intuitive person. She at a young age was very musically talented, a book worm and an artist. She was thin, tall and light skinned. She had a very low self-esteem and never thought she was pretty. She was shy and quiet. I never knew until a few years before my mother died that she was a classically trained pianist, 7 yrs! She did speak about wanting to be a fashion designer when she was in high school, but I never saw her drawing until after she died. She could have been famous.
He never let her play the piano in our home, she sold it to her sister when I was 8 yrs old to keep it safe and bought it back from her family 2 years before she died in her mid eighties. That is when I heard her play for the very first time, and all I could do was cry.
The control that an abuser has over someone is not something that is easily understood unless you have experienced it first hand. I have heard so many times over my lifetime people remark " why don't you just leave" " I just don't understand what's wrong with you, are you stupid or something?"
FEAR...that is the driving force for anyone to stay in a relationship that is violent. My mom stayed in it for 38 years. She attempted to leave him on at least two occasions that I can remember. We lived in fear that he would find us, and he did the first time and the second time my mom told me she might need surgery so she went back so that we would not starve. The only reason she finally escaped the abuse was God took him in a motorcycle accident. I truly believe it was to keep my mother from finally snapping and shooting him. Years of abuse was finally coming to a boiling point at that time and who knows what might have happened.
I heard a story from an Aunt that the first time Dad beat my mother up that my Grandfather went to him and told him "if I see the whites of your eyes in the morning I will kill you." I am told he left and went back to Texas. I am unsure of how long he was gone, it was before we were born. He did come back and my mother took him back. My grandfather never intervened again.
My mom feared him, and loved him. She told her sister-in-law once that there was a very fine line between love and hate. When I was old enough my mom taught me how to call the police to get help if he was hurting her. They would come and separate them, talk to him and talk to my mom. Tell her if she pressed charges that they would take him to jail and she would say "no" and we would pack up in the middle of the night, drive a few miles away and sleep in the car until morning and then go back home after he "slept it off". He would be sitting at the table drinking coffee when we walked in as if nothing ever happened. It was a very eerie silence each time we would walk in. I hated it.
There were times we stayed gone longer because he had hurt her and broken bones. We stayed with my grandmother or my aunts and uncles. I do not believe to this day that his mother or siblings knew he beat his wife and kids.
I watched him break his belt on my older sisters butt once, I think she may have been 10 or 11 years old. When she was a teenager I saw him grab her by her long red hair and throw her across the room. It ripped a big bald spot in her head. He was more verbally abusive to my younger brother. Always telling us that he never wanted us, that we are "peon's" I actually asked him once what that meant, he told me we were not even worth "peeing on". I somehow managed to escape the physical abuse but got mostly verbal abuse. How or why I managed to avoid the violence has only recently come to my attention.
I did however learn at a very early age his patterns, body language and voice tone and when to run and when it was safe. As I became a teenager I used to step in and protect my mom. I would dare him to hit me instead and promised him that if he did I would make sure he would go to jail. He never did. After I left home I would still call my mom and check on her, I could tell by her voice it was a bad day and asked her if she needed me to come over. I would go to their house, tell her to go to bed and then tell him if he wanted a fight I would be "his huckleberry". He died when I was 23 yrs old. I never got the chance as an adult to ask him " what the fuck is your problem?" or why he did what he did to her and to us.
I remember the night I got the phone call that he was dead. I have to tell you I breathed a deep sigh of relief that he was dead and that I would not have to worry about getting the phone call that he had killed my mom. I did not grieve his death as others would a normal father. It did however take years to forgive him. He caused severe mental and physical damage to my mother and my siblings. I too have some sensitivities with things due to his abuse.
Do children of abusers repeat the pattern. I believe we are a product of our environment and it is up to us to change that. I did marry the first time to get out of the house and ended up with someone that was verbally abusive to me. I did not have a perfect father figure to base my relationships with men on. My sister has issues. I also believe my brother inherited his temper and the depression. I made the decision to change the pattern and choose a better partner. My mom remarried later in life and finally found a man that treated her like a queen.
Now I am not writing this to have anyone feel sorry for me. It was a long time ago. It made me the strong, sensitive empath that I am today. I am writing this in hopes that it may change a life or encourage someone to seek help. Recently someone at my work was killed by her violent husband in front of her child. There is help. You can find a way out. Don't give up, stay strong.