“Nothing hurts more than being disappointed and hurt by the people you thought would never hurt you.” – Unknown
This phrase couldn’t be truer for me. As a child growing up with domestic violence, it changed who I was, temporarily. Luckily, I can now say, “I am a survivor of Childhood Domestic Violence.”
I grew up never trusting anyone and never feeling loved or wanted. Instead, I felt like I was worthless, unlovable, and not like anyone else. You see, my life was abnormal. On the outside, everything looked great!! I lived In a great neighborhood, had a nice home, and went on amazing family vacations. Inside our home, however, it was completely different. I was the oldest and in turn was the scapegoat of the family.
The abuse started when I was around 10, with a lot of yelling, extreme punishments, put downs, alienating me from my biological dad, and unrealistic expectations. As I grew older, the abuse got worse. One incident I remember very clearly happened when I was 13. I realized my stepdad was growing marijuana and I confronted him with this new knowledge. My step-dad reacted by throwing me up against the wall, grabbing me, and threatened that he would kill me if I told anyone. Scared as hell, I told my mom. She never cared and was more worried how this would make her look to others if anyone found out. I was told not to tell anyone or I would be in trouble. I really couldn’t believe it. As the abuse continued, I remembered thinking, “How do I change this?” I didn’t know the answer, I was 15. I had gone to school counselors but never really got any help. I think they thought it was just my parents’ strict way of discipline.
I went back and forth thinking, “is this normal or is this not normal?” I didn’t know and no one else was helpful at this time. Another incident occurred on a June evening, after cleaning up the kitchen. My stepdad walked in and see that the floor had not been swept “properly” by his standards, became enraged. I learned very quickly to make sure chores were done to his standards. My stepdad grabbed me by my hair and started dragging me out of my room. He was determined to teach me a lesson. As I was only 15 and a hundred pounds, my stepdad was without question the stronger one. I really couldn’t do anything to protect myself. I looked for help from my mom as my stepdad started to punch me and kick me. I saw my mom at the top of the stairs watching my stepdad beating me. She offered no help, but rather allowed the abuse to continue and turned a blind eye. My baby sister watched from around the corner. I was in the fetal position getting beaten up by the man I was supposed to trust. I felt defeated.
No one helped me that night. So, I decided I needed to help myself. I ran away from home at 15, shortly after that night. The abuse did not end after that but continued on for many years. When I left, I had a baby. He was my life. I vowed to protect him and nurture him. The day I had him put things into perspective. I knew I had to change the way I saw the work! I had put up so many walls to protect myself. I wanted to live, I wanted to be free to live my life to the fullest.
Being a child that went through so many adversities so early in life, I felt unloved, worthless, fearful, guilty, sad and very alone. I lived with these feelings well into adulthood. Although I was away from my parents, those feelings stayed with me a very long time. I never could have imagined someone loving me. I felt guilty all the time, thinking that “I must have done something to deserve this? I never thought I was good enough. I was petrified to see what the world had to offer.
I’m not sure what changed for me and when. Maybe I was just exhausted from always fighting for my life. At 23, having three more babies, and after leaving another abusive relationship, I felt things had to get better. My life significantly changed as I realized my children taught me I was lovable and deserving of unconditional love. I felt stronger. I felt love and compassion for myself. I surrounded myself with positive, successful people. I went back to school and fought to make my life better. I was finally in control of my life. I had learned how to really love someone and to accept love back.
I married a man who makes me feel loved every day! I have also learned that I’m not alone. Many people who were affected by domestic violence have gone on to do amazing things in life. The most valuable lesson I have learned is that my past does not define me – rather it has catapulted me towards a greater life!