I know about the obsession of the mind that affects alcoholics, I know from first hand experience, it can overwrite common sense – it takes liberty with the past and tells you that this time it’ll be different, it promises you’ll finally get that feeling you’ve been chasing so long that’s been just out of your reach.
I don’t understand the trick the mind plays with domestic abuse victims. Time and time again they go back to the abuser “I’ll never do it again” he says… “I’m so sorry” he says… “Give me one more chance” he pleads… At least that’s what my Mother seemed to do.
I don’t remember the first time my step-father hit my mother, after a while all the times run together and every incident is the same. He started the same each time, he’d be normal, he’d maybe even be nice to people even us kids…
Then there was something in his eyes that would change you knew right behind those eyes the rage was just itching to get out. You could see the rage back there and some times he’d temper it, he’d keep it glowing under cover but the embers were waiting to strike each time.
You’d hear mother scream before you’d hear anything else, then you’d see him with his fist clenched, jaw tight – by the time we saw him it was likely the first punch had been thrown, a bruise would be forming or blood would be flowing. Mom would back away and he’d advance slowly on her, he knew that the terror was almost worse than the belts, he enjoyed inflicting that on her – behind the fire in his eyes and his clenched fists I remember a smile, a cocksure grin that he was getting off on again – he lived for this terror.
Us kids would plead for him to stop, I remember the screams the howls as tears would rain down our faces – all it did was egg him on, now he had an audience and the increased terror fed him.
Some nights the cops would come and take him away, most they wouldn’t. Some nights we’d run to grandmothers and later in the big city to a shelter. I recall asking neighbors in Florida if I could stay with them I explained to my friend about my Dad beating my Mom again but his parents didn’t want to get involved and I had to go to the shelter with them.
Most people don’t want to get involved – it’s a domestic dispute, I’m sure we don’t know what’s going on – that’s what I figure they think anyway. I can’t explain why else they’d let the screams of a woman and her children go unanswered
Something would convince Mom to get rid of him and he’d be gone and we’d feel safe – but then he’d come back into our lives. He would use the excuse to see us kids and Mom’s heart would melt or something and she’d believe that if he cared so much for us kid then maybe he was changing. We were just a tool for him, a tool to her and a nice addition when he brought the fear.
Unfortunately, just like my Mother I’d start to believe that this time would be different and I’d think of how nice it was to have a Dad, a drunk unemployed worthless Dad, but he was what we had. A real family… then anything could have happened and
“Joe! No! Don’t Joe! I’m Sorry Joe!” and if you were unfortunate you could hear the sound of his fist hitting her soft flesh, a loud smack. You could hear him breathing heavily and see his eyes again full of the fire. My sister and I had psycho emotional phantom pains when he’d hit her, we’d feel the blows as they’d come … it seems silly to think of like that now, but I swear I could. In hindsight I think the vision of him hitting her would cause me to feel her pain emotionally so much that it affected me physically.
I’ve told the story once before on this blog, but there was a time when we were at Joe’s parents house where a lot of his family helped beat her once, she was on the ground and they kicked her and hit her and she crawled to the car… I guess there is something there that says Joe was maybe raised in a family of violence and that’s all he knew – I don’t buy it, I think he lived for it (he’s still living I can’t imagine he’s not beating the shit out of someone he’s with today).
One morning as we fled to the neighbors for safety and she swore she’d never go back he grabbed the two cats by the necks and said he’d kill em if she didn’t come back.. the anger was there and he really would have I think… but as we drove away he tried to brush it off, he said “I’m just kidding kids, I wouldn’t hurt the cats…”
The night in the shelter in St. Petersburg was the last straw for me I think, how did we end up there of all places. It was dark, scary and everyone I saw there looked as frightened as I felt. All the kids there hanging desperately to the hem of their mothers clothes, some of them with bruises of their own. I don’t know what can change but something has to change I thought… It has to, we can’t be here.
One of the last times I recall seeing Joe when I was still a child – he was mad about something and us kids were told to sit on the couch and wait… I stared at him with pure hatred, I wanted him dead. I wanted him to never be able to touch my family again… and I really wanted him to suffer, i wanted him to feel ten fold the hits I’d seen and felt – a part of me still does want that to happen to him, I can’t think of a more deserving person. He saw the hate in my eyes and he asked me point blank: “You think I’m an asshole don’t you?” and I actually was honest with him “Yes I do, I know you are”
She went back to him countless times, always believing each time that it would be different somehow – this time he wouldn’t hit her, this time there wouldn’t be children screaming for him to stop, no bruises, no cuts, no knives. I couldn’t, I can’t understand it.
In a perfect world, none of that affected me and I grew up to become a man without violent tendencies who isn’t frightened by violent acts he sees. But this isn’t a perfect world, I worry about my temper. I fear ever striking another human being. I will do anything to avoid becoming like the man that did those things…. I can feel that anger when I let it build up, I understand how easy it would be to strike out and hit someone, but I’ve seen the consequences of that and I will not allow it to be me.
For years when I was drinking if there would be a fight, even if it was just yelling between two grown adults I’d shut down, I’d leave. I’d ask people to pull over a car so I could get out and walk – no matter where we happened to be.
Sober I’ve spent less time around people that yell and scream at one another (imagine that) and I’ve even taken steps to stop people who were hurting others – I think we’re supposed to.
It’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month think about that, there are so many people that suffer from Domestic Violence they have a month for it.
When I was a child and this was happening all I wanted was to get out of it, I wanted to escape from it and keep my mother from harm. I felt responsible for her being beat and not being able to stop it. I didn’t have the power to stop it, but that’s hard to grasp then… Today I can help, I can help here by talking about what it was like and telling you that there can be an end to the cycle. I’ll provide links here where you can find out more information about how to help and see what others are doing…
I know it’s perhaps not a comfortable thing to ask someone if there is anything you can do to help. I know it might put you in a sticky situation if you call the cops, I know it’s even sticker if you stick your nose in other peoples business… but I believe if they (the victims) can hear a voice of hope, a voice of safety… maybe, just maybe they’ll reach out for help and get out of the situation.
National Network to End Domestic Violence 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224
If you’re in a relationship and being beaten, there is help out there, there is a better life out there – reach out, take someones hand – we’re here.