Diane Sammett grew up in a home with violence. Although she was not the recipient of it, her mother was, she understands now that living and seeing the violence has changed her life. When you grow up living with domestic violence, that’s Childhood Domestic Violence (CDV). And this childhood adversity can negatively impact all areas of your life, leaving you to struggle mentally and physically. It does not always allow you to be the person you should be as an adult.
But there is always hope and there is always discovery
Diane’s story is filled with both. She shows in her own journey, a means to finding greater peace through her passions. And she finds that knowledge is freedom. Freedom for empowerment and freedom for joy.
Read her story of Childhood Domestic Violence….
In a peaceful, rural countryside, there sits a grand farmhouse built in the 1700’s. The VRBO listing states, “…located on 13 acres with a scenic spring-fed pond. A perfect location for family gatherings…” For $1,000 a night, you can rent this gorgeous property.
That farmhouse is my childhood home. What you won’t rent are the memories in my head. Memories of my father beating my mother. It started in 1969. I was in fourth grade, nine years old, and domestic violence was not a crime. The torture would continue for the remaining years I lived there.
No need to recount the details because if you are reading this, you either have similar experiences or you know someone who does. Instead, I want to focus on how I survived and built a life filled with much goodness and joy. Not everyone in my family can say the same.
What did I do? How did I do it? What saved me?
I don’t promise to have conclusive answers, but being older now, I have the privilege of reflection, which has given me ideas.
My father would warn me, “Don’t tell anyone. No one cares. No one will listen.” Since I was terrified of him, I became mute. I couldn’t have friends. I lived in isolation. On one hand, this social poverty made my situation much, much worse, but it also gave me space and time to read, and to draw and paint.
Acceptance & Growth living with Childhood Domestic Violence
The Arts lived up to their potential, by giving me a legitimate escape, an avenue for acceptance and fed my tenacity for growth. I became our high school’s sought-after student artist. Then went on to a prestigious art school for college.
But it was my reading, my love of books, and the library which truly saved me. I read everything I could. Sometimes, I’d get lost inside a book and miss my bus stop. I remember weeping over JANE EYRE by Charlotte Brontë, and I remember how a book prompted my first confrontation with my father, in which I did not back down.
The book was SILENT SPRING by Rachel Carson.
“SILENT SPRING presents a view of nature compromised by synthetic pesticides, especially DDT. Once these pesticides entered the biosphere, Carson argued, they not only killed bugs but also made their way up the food chain to threaten bird and fish populations and could eventually sicken children.”
~ from HOW ’SILENT SPRING’ IGNITED THE ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT by Eliza Griswold, New York Times, September 21, 2012
My Silent Spring
My father owned a dairy farm. He sprayed DDT on the fields and all the fish died in the ponds. And then he saw Ms. Carson’s book in my hands. He was an educated man. And knew. He spit disgust at a world that would allow such material into the hands of a child. He also spit disgust that I would believe this book, over what he told me. I began to question him, not openly, that could hurt me. I questioned silently. It was my personal silent spring.
When he said, “She deserved it you know.” Inside I’d say, “No one deserves to be beaten.”
When he said, “It’s too bad. You’re just like her.” Inside I ‘d say, “I should be so lucky, to be so strong.”
Keep Learning, Questioning and Growing as a Childhood Domestic Violence Survivor
It would be a fairy tale, or a Hollywood movie ending, to say that from that moment on, I took full dominion over my life, especially my behaviors and choices. I did not. The years of witnessing domestic violence on my young developing brain had changed me. I did many things to regret, which now I know were based on my life as a CDV survivor. But through it all, I continued to read, which means I continued to learn, question, and grow.
The literary arts gave me the friends I needed, the science to help me, and opportunities to share. Today I belong to the National Association for Poetry Therapy, which promotes not just poetry but all literary healing modalities. I am also a published poet and am writing multiple book manuscripts for children, especially those around nine years old, who like me, so long ago, need friends within the pages of a book.
FIGHT OR FLIGHT OR FREEZE OR…
(first published in the Academy of the Heart and Mind, May 2023)
by Diane Sammett
You can’t outrun attackers,
not when small and tasty.
You try to hide; it’s useless.
You run. They run faster.
You freeze. They only see you.
You fight. Ha-ha, they laugh.
You have only one defense.
Allow yourself to grow.
Attackers cannot stop that,
and they know it.
deep within—your brain (get smart),
then grow a stronger heart.
Won’t need big boobs, big balls, big bills.
You don’t know it yet.
Don’t stop there—keep growing,
past vengeance, blame, and bite;
past fear, and fair, and right.
Keep growing—make a pearl.
charity and grace
Cultivate and polish
your semiprecious gem.
Design, adorn, remember