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Please, stop the cycle of domestic violence.

Due to the nature of the following article and my ongoing struggles, I found it very difficult, at times, to work on this. I want to acknowledge and thank my best friend Nanc, for her assistance in helping me to prepare and complete this article, so that I could share my thoughts with all of you.

Sometimes I think that when most people hear the phrase, “domestic violence” it conjures up only an image of some drunken, man-beast, beating on a helpless woman. While this is often what is referred to by the words, this is not the only kind of domestic violence. There is also physical child abuse, neglect, verbal, financial, sexual, incest, and emotional abuse. Domestic violence does not happen only in “biological family” homes, as I am painfully well aware. It happens in Foster care also. The results of these abuses are far reaching for anyone who lives within turbulence and particularly so for the children of violent homes.

While I do not wish to minimize the impact that domestic abuse has on adults, I am far more concerned personally, with the devastating and long-lasting consequences the children of these violent or neglectful homes endure.

Childhood was not a nice time. There are very few fond memories. In fact, for the most part childhood is something I’d rather not remember at all. I dealt with violence or the threat of violence or abuse on a daily basis. That is no way for a child to grow up. In my case, I feel as though I’ve always been an adult, although I know, logically, it just isn’t the case. There is something about abusive homes that makes children grow up too soon. They see the difficulties faced by the adults, the fighting, the drinking; the money troubles etc. all the things that children shouldn’t have to concern themselves with. Depending on what is going on in the home, in many cases they are also forced into adult roles. I know what it is like to be made responsible for my siblings and even for listening to the woes of the adults in the house, the ones who were supposed to have our welfare at heart.

We are products of our environments more than of our schooling. Violent homes produce emotionally troubled children, who become emotionally troubled adults. They have difficulty forming lasting and healthy relationships, have significant trust issues and oftentimes have skewed vision or perception of situations. Some fall into alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, and violent behaviors themselves. Others, like myself, wind up with mental illnesses some of which are difficult to diagnose, let alone treat. Conditions such as, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Major Depression, Suicidal Ideology, Self-Harming, Eating Disorders, Borderline Personality Disorders, many other personality disorders, and even Dissociative Identity Disorders (formerly called Multiple Personality Disorder), are common amongst abuse survivors and are some of the things I currently struggle with.

To further illustrate, I feel I must share with you the fate of my siblings, who grew up in virtually the same environment as I. One sister married into an abusive relationship and now remains single, many years after leaving the marriage. One brother, died of AIDS a very young and angry man. One sister was heavily involved with drugs, alcohol and prostitution for a period. She ultimately got involved with a man who was later convicted of molesting one of her daughters. My other brother is a confirmed wife beater. These realities are all part of the vicious cycle of domestic violence.

Victims of domestic violence, whether they are adults or children, often hold themselves responsible. Self-blaming questions such as, “What is wrong with me?” "What did I do to cause this?” “How can I fix this?” become standard thoughts in the minds of people who live in this kind of tyranny.

One of the saddest things about domestic abuse is that it IS a learned behaviour. Children grow up expecting violence and learn that not only is it an answer, but it is normal. Little girls, who can do nothing but watch in horror (or hear in some cases) as somebody takes a beating or cowers in fear, learn that this is what to expect from men. Little boys witnessing the same come to believe that it is okay to be abusive and that it is how to solve difficulties or get things their own way.

As a child, I witnessed horrific abuses toward my siblings and suffered them myself. I learned at a very early age that it was not okay to fight back or defend myself. I believed abuse was what I deserved. “He” would often go to great lengths not to injure himself, by using instruments to hit us and always in places uneasy to detect.

Come “punishment time” (and there always was a punishment), it was not unusual for him to hold one of us children down and order a sibling to deliver the beating, which they did, because they knew if they didn’t they would be next. That is the kind of control he had. All the while, the person who gave birth to us knew the goings on and did nothing to stop it, even had her own methods of abuse.

Violence was normal. It was a way of life. It was all I knew and all I deserved.
Not believing I was entitled to better, I married into the same kind of scenario. I cannot count the number of times I was abused, in so many different ways, at the hands of this monster. He exercised control over me in ways some might believe impossible. I was allowed to work, but always was under his watchful eye. If I so much as looked at anyone the “wrong way”, I was berated, humiliated, called “whore” and other very unpleasant things. I was not allowed to spend money. He chose my clothes and told me what to wear. I was not allowed any outside contacts and so I had no friends. I remember a business contact telephoned me one night and he yanked the phone out of my hand and said, “She has to go now!” and slammed the receiver down.

I knew he was capable of killing me. He would say things like, “I’ve done time before, so doing time for killing you is nothing. I could do it standing on my head.”

It is a well-known fact that abusers often make empty promises about their behaviours, declarations of love and remorse and promises that it will never happen again. It will happen again. Do not believe their lies. In every case, adult or child, it is very difficult for the abused to break away from the situation. Self-esteem and self- worth are so low that even imagining life away from the abuse and chaos is difficult. I stayed in this horrific marriage until it became abundantly clear to me that if I stayed, I would either die at his hand or kill myself.

Leaving was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I had tried to run several times before, but he would chase me down and the terrorizing and beatings would be much worse. I finally did manage to break free of him on February 23, 1993, which I now consider my new birthday – or as Nanc says my “rebirthday”. I left with nothing but the clothes on my back and I cannot even begin to tell you how afraid I was. Still, I got away from him physically. I thank God there were no children involved and I feel that in some small way, I have done my part to break the vicious cycle of domestic violence.

I said above, I broke away physically. The ugly memories and ingrained beliefs about myself are still present and affecting my day to day life. I suffer from body memory pain, horrific nightmares and dissociation, even though I have remarried a man who would never raise a hand to me. Strangely, there are times when if he raises his voice, parts of me want to run and hide out of fear. It is still unknown whether I will eventually manage to “slip the grip” of the terror which sometimes still holds me.

Finally, I’d just like to say to you ladies out there who might be living under the thick cloak of control and terror, please, please get out. Get out in any way you can. Find whatever strength you can muster, because you DO deserve better and so do your dear little children. Stop the cycle of abuse.

Take gentle care of you and them and stay safe.





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