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child abuse

Child Abuse

Lost Voices

Did you know that in the U.S. alone, 3 million+ incidences of child abuse are reported involving 6 million or more children? This breaks my heart…because this statistic is based solely on those incidences that have been reported. Imagine all the children affected by abuse whose voices have not been heard…scared and scarred…beaten and defeated…feeling lost and alone.

 

We learn at a young age that when there is a bad guy, you call the cops. We learn that these bad guys will get in trouble by the authorities. But what do you do when the bad guy is your own father? Your own flesh and blood? You think in your head, I can’t betray my own family. Or at least that’s what I thought.

It’s never easy for a child to open up about something that he or she knows is innately wrong. More often than not, their abuser is a family member, a loved one…someone that is closest to their heart…someone that they trust. We want the abuse to stop but we don’t want our loved one to get in trouble. I can vividly remember when I had to make decisions that a child should never have to make.

My parents fought quite often (every hour every day) and they would scream and taunt each other. It was a twisted, volatile relationship. It always ended badly…with my mom getting beaten and left with not only physical, but emotional scars. Even at a young age, my brother and I always tried to get in the middle and stop the fights. My mom always threatened to call the cops and went as far as picking up the phone…but that’s where it ended. She never followed through. Eventually, my dad knew that they were always empty threats…the boy who cried wolf. I would always think, What the heck are you waiting for? Call 911 already! You can’t call them when you’re dead! Save us! My dad knew she would never do anything. But I always wished that she had.

One day, I got into a fight with my mom and she told my dad to punish me. He started to hit me and then she yelled, “Wait!” I remember thinking, Oh good! She feels bad and is gonna save me for once (from her own doing)! But then she said, “Take off your glasses and give them to me.” She didn’t want to protect me…she just didn’t want to have to buy me new glasses. 🙁 My heart sank and that moment has been forever singed into my memory.

I was 16 then and it was the first time I had a visible sign of abuse…a black eye. All the other times it was well hidden, but this time his temper made him careless.

Being 16, I had a job and had to call out sick. Eventually after a few days, my employer said I had to come in no matter what. I couldn’t keep up the lies. I showed up to work and my Assistant Manager, whom I babysat for and whose husband was an FBI agent, said she had to tell her husband. I begged her not to. But shortly thereafter, I got a call from him. He gave me an ultimatum. I either had to go to the police or he would.

At that stage of my life , I should have been making decisions like what outfit to wear or which boy to crush on. I hated that I was put in this position. I hated that I had to run away from home. I hated that my dad, whom I loved, could hurt me this way. I was not a vengeful person and had no intention of hurting him back, but I thought it would be worse if a third party reported it so I went into the police station.

Child abuse is a serious matter so I took it very seriously. It was not something to lie about or exaggerate because there were irreversible consequences that came along with one’s actions. I thought I was being courageous and finally doing what my mom could never do. There I was, telling the authorities what had happened and secretly hoping that they could save me…yelling inside SAVE ME!

The follow-up question was: Has your dad ever hit anyone else? I verbalized what I was thinking in my head: yes, he used to hit my brother but he has moved out. But he beats my mom almost every day. The officer asked for her number and was going to contact her to corroborate my story. For a moment, I thought she would be proud of me for trying to save us.

The officer came back out and said he had spoken to my mother. “Esther, your mom said that your father has never hit her nor anyone else and that this was a first.” I looked at the officer, the officer who now thought I was a liar, as tears rolled down my eyes. All I felt in that moment was betrayal. It was a sinking feeling deep down in my gut. I had opened the door for my mom and given her an out…I had done something that she should have done 10 years ago…I was the child making grown-up decisions… All hope had vanished and my heart dropped. How could she do this? Now, no one will EVER believe me.

The authorities also took this matter very seriously so they called a meeting with my father and I. Prior to the meeting, my dad had expressed how I had become a traitor to the family and all of our relatives thought that as well. I was a teen and easily manipulated. The pressure was too much. So we went into the meeting and I expressed that it was a one-time event. I let the opportunity slip right past me and that is NOT something I am proud of.

So here I am today, as a voice for the children who are unable to speak out. For those who are scared, manipulated, or threatened. For those who have been harmed and seek refuge. For those who are downtrodden and unable to find their voice…this is for you.

 

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April is Child Abuse Awareness month but we should keep it in mind year around. If you witness or sense something is wrong with a child, please do not turn a blind eye. Please take a moment to ask questions and make yourself available to the children you love. Even if you have to ask them repeatedly in order to get it out of them. You might save a child’s life.

P.S. For those parents who have stopped in their tracks reading this article and thought to themselves… OMG! Did I abuse my child by disciplining them? Rest assured that I’m not referring to those who give their child a smack on the toosh and feel guilty afterwards. I’m referring to the cowards who take it out on their innocent children day in and day out.

Love

It’s Never Too Late…

Yesterday I witnessed love in the most beautiful form…the love of a parent.  Never-ending, guiding, protective love.  It is unique to each parent-child bond and sometimes, the simplest ways that parents express love goes unnoticed.  But the love is there.

My sister-in-law came into town to visit and she always stays at her parent’s house when she comes home.  She was planning to go out last night and this was the conversation between her dad (my father-in-law) and her:

DAD: “Oh you’re going out tonight?”

SIL: “Yep, just to watch a movie.”

DAD: “Are you coming home to sleep?”…with a little bit of panic and worry that an average person would never sense

SIL: “Of course.”

DAD: “Ok.”…with relief

My sister-in-law is 28 years old and a grown woman.  But she will ALWAYS be daddy’s little girl.  A father’s love never fades.  She may be grown and able to take care of herself but he will always worry about her and want to protect her.  It was a simple conversation that I was a witness to.  A normal conversation.  But there is such deeper meaning to the simple things sometimes.  He cares so much about his little girl and wants to protect her and he just needed peace of mind…that when she gets home, she will be safe under his roof.  I am lucky that I have gained such a loving father in my life.  He is an amazing man.

Sometimes I think that my own father must love me deep down, just as good fathers do.  I think that the generational gap and cultural barrier doesn’t allow him to show me or tell me that he cares that much.  But then I’m reminded of his hurtful words and actions…and I tell myself that he had many opportunities to see the wrong-doing in his “ways of showing love.”  Although I no longer speak to him because I was tired of getting hurt all the time, there is still a very small part of me that hopes and prays that he will show up one day.  Not literally show up outside my door (I would hate that) but that he will be my dad and act as a loving father would and try.  Being a dad isn’t about just being related by blood.  You have to act as a father would, be involved and care like dads do, and tell as well as show your kids how much you love them…everyday.

The truth of the matter is that it’s never too late.  It’s never too late to show that you care…to try to right the wrong…to show that you have changed…to try to win your daughter’s love back and show why you are deserving of re-entering my life…  It’s never too late to make new memories…to get to know my new family…to say things that you have never said in 30 years but had always thought and couldn’t find the words to say.  It’s never too late…until you’re gone forever.

domestic violence, empowerment, Inspiration, PTSD

Pulling Myself Out of a Deep, Dark Abyss

I remember as a child, I used to think that victims of domestic violence were homeless and poor with raggedy clothes and funky body odor because they literally were running away for their lives.  I had no idea that they came in the form of everyday people with what seemed to be a normal life.  People who would actually fake the funk.  Put on a front that they had the perfect life with the perfect family and perfect job.  Or they had to make everything appear to be perfect.  Isn’t it crazy that I did not fall apart until I was 27?  I was one of those people without even knowing it.  Somehow, I had suppressed my childhood in the back of my mind and was not truly living my life.

My whole world came crumbling down on that day.  I remember it clearly and can replay every second of my downward, dark spiral.  I was at work (a job I had had for almost 5 years) and I was having a breakdown.  I called my friends and they told me that I needed to go home.  I called my boss and for some reason, held back no discretion, and I straight up told him that I needed to go home because something was not right and I wanted to “kill myself”.  It was a bizarre, unwanted feeling.  Suicide had rolled off my lips in the past but I only contemplated it during two phases of my life.  I never had acted.  This time it came at me in full force and there was no running away.

Leave me alone

I went into the deepest, darkest, black abyss I had ever experienced and NO ONE COULD UNDERSTAND.  Only I felt it and I could not sit and listen to anyone nor cared to.  A person who once was the most caring individual, suddenly did not care for anyone or anything.  I couldn’t hear anything or pay attention to anything.  I WAS JUST GONE.  I didn’t want to see anyone or for them to see me.  I didn’t want to do anything but lay in bed in the dark in my pjs.  I guess I was just hoping I would never wake up.  Friends tried and I lost touch with my brother because of our differences in opinion.  No one could pull me back to reality.  Thank god they make you take these therapy sessions in order for you to stay out of work.  I hated them but they helped me.  Sort of.  Many therapy sessions, and a couple of misdiagnosed prescriptions later, I wasn’t miraculously healed.  I went through the worst inner struggle of my life.  Thoughts of what the purpose of my life was and it’s meaning.

depression

The whole time, I thought I was so stressed out at work that I had broken finally.  One 10-minute session with the MD…changed my life.  Within 5 minutes of talking to me and reading my file while she was writing my prescription, she told me I was suffering from PTSD.  I thought there was no way and she was delirious.  I told her “I haven’t been through a war or anything…how could I have PTSD?” Baffled, I went home…and upon thinking about it for hours and days, I realized that she was right.  All that time I had therapy and group sessions and they had no idea what was wrong with me…they said it was depression…and all it took this doctor was 5 minutes.  I knew it had to be something deeper.  And it explained so much.  Needless to say, I stopped going to therapy once I fulfilled my required amount.  I was no longer in denial.

Slowly and with caution, I started picking up the pieces now that I had an answer for why I was feeling the way I was.  It was as if I was reborn…as if I had shed my old skin and was born anew.  Baby skin.  Starting all over from scratch.  Rebuilding a new life with a different path for myself.  I realized how this epiphany would change my life forever.

The first phase was over and I faced it head on.  The next phase was about what I would do with this new-found awareness.  Would I get back into the same depressing cycle (which was my fear) or would I be able to move on?  Could I really leave all the trauma behind and live a life free of my past…the tormenting flashbacks…the negativity?  To my own amazement, the whole experience made me stronger.  I didn’t have therapists telling me what to do or how I should be able to move on.  I did it at my own pace and I truly believe that was what strengthened me mentally.  I did it because I WANTED TO and because I could do it on my own.  A sense of overwhelming empowerment had taken over and I had no idea what I was capable of.   And that is what continues to drive me.

I found love…and he is the one who helped me through my broken time of healing.   His love and support meant the world to me.  It’s true what they say…timing IS everything.  He came at a time when I needed the support the most and for him, I will always be truly grateful.

The happy, expectant parents

The happy, expectant parents

When I tell people a little about my past, most can’t imagine and I can tell they feel bad for me.  But I started talking about my past, not for pity, but to share the strength in my story…where I came from to where I am now.  I don’t feel bad for myself.  I appreciate my experience, as awful as it was, because it has helped mold me to be a better person.  I was able to tell wrong from right and I broke the cycle.

I will be raising my kids in a loving environment.  I used to say I would never bring kids into this ugly world, but I realized that we all can teach goodness and pay it forward by being an example.  My goal in life is to share the goodness and share my story so those currently suffering know that they too can get there eventually.  By no means is it easy, but it IS possible to move on.  I still think about things and cry at times, but I am no longer weak.  My tears are those in mourning of my past life.  I know who I am and what direction I am headed.  And it feels amazing.  I want to help everyone to feel this way…this positivity…this happiness.  Because that is what every single person deserves…a chance to live a full and happy life.