Behind Closed Doors
I was born to teen parents, both of whom had been the victims of abuse and neglect. My mother grew up with an alcoholic father; my own father also grew up with an alcoholic father who was often physically abusive with him. I have always speculated that’s why they were in such a rush to get out of their homes in one way or another and I suppose that having me and getting married as a result was in fact one way.
At the surface we looked like a success story. My parents had bought a home by the time they were 18 and found great jobs, they were involved in the church, I was a straight A student and my father coached my little brothers little league team. We were the epitome of how a young family with the odds against them could make it. But behind closed doors it was a different story,
My father had a very short fuse. He was a perfectionist, everything had a place and if something was not in its place there was hell to pay. I remember having my head slammed into my bed post for not closing the blinds the way he liked them, getting beaten with a belt until black and blue welts came out of my skin causing me to hide in the bathroom when I changed for P.E. Once he threw my dog across the room into a wall because he came home late and dinner was cold. When I was in middle school my aunts got so worried after my father punched me in the face they reported the abuse to their counselor and child services was called. I will never forget the day they showed up to my school and all of the questions they asked me. I denied everything and because at the time there was no physical proof there was not much they could do despite their documented suspicions. But that report did something to me; it made me realize I had a voice. After years of being told by my mothers’ family that what my parents were doing was wrong and only half believing them while more accurately feeling that if I was good enough or perfect enough it would stop. I finally realized it really was wrong.
I will never forget the night my father tried to go after my little brother and I got in his face stating "you touch a hair on his head and I will report you myself this time." The abuse still didn’t stop there though. Following the report my aunts made, my mother got in on the abuse. I had ruined the image of her perfect family, added cracks to the surface. She would kick me in places where others couldn’t see, and at one point tried to physically fight me in the back yard. By high school I began running away a lot and my mother’s family would often take me in. I feel if not for them I would have been lost. They gave me the number in middle school to 1-800-4-A-CHILD and there were a few times that I called, they also sent me to a wonderful counselor who helped me to grow tremendously.
When I was 18 I went back to live with my parents, my father at this point was a horrible alcoholic. The night before I started college he came home drunk and began fighting with me. I had learned to walk away and tried to leave the house but he wouldn’t let me leave. He held me hostage for several hours. I begged and pleaded and all he and my mother would say is if we let you go you will report this, and if you do you’re 18 and will be charged with domestic violence for fighting back. If that happens, kiss your college dreams good bye. I finally escaped and as I ran out the front door the last thing I heard was my father cocking his shot gun, screaming he was going to kill me. My grandmother took me to the hospital that night following the incident. And after telling them at first that I had been jumped in a park my aunts convinced me to finally tell the truth for the sake of my brother so that he would not go through what I had. At the time he was only nine. My father was charged with a felony for assault and battery months later and served three years of probation. However, I feel that my bravery was the beginning of a wake up call for both of my parents.
After years of therapy for PTSD, and various other things related to the incident, I went back to college and eventually forgave my parents. My father sobered up and both of them apologized and admitted they were wrong. We have a pretty good relationship at this point but it took a lot of healing and a ton of therapy. I realize that this is not an option for some; in this way I have been very blessed.
I have been working in social services for over six years now. I have worked with children in a domestic violence shelter as a child advocate, I have done behavior management with at risk youth, worked with adults in an intensive outpatient program, graduated from college with a BA in psychology and have done case management with families in crisis, and currently with adults in a mental health facility. I will be starting my masters in counseling program next week, and continue to learn every day from my clients as I hope to do life long. I thank god for the angels that helped me along the way, my mothers family, my aunts, my therapist and your organization when I needed a kind ear to listen to what I was enduring at home.
Today I consider myself to be a survivor of abuse. I can attest that almost every adult and child client I have ever worked with has been a victim of abuse or neglect in some way and some of them still inspire me by teaching me what the human spirit is capable of with some hope, love, support and guidance. Know each day that every person in your agency does something very special I am living proof of it as are many of the people that I serve.