October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and this month’s #SurvivorSunday submission comes by way of “Natalee”, a courageous 17-year old girl who is telling her story for the first time. To protect her identity as a survivor and minor, we are using an alias and stock photo of her choice. We invite you to join us as Natalee shares a heart-rending tale of growing up in a home full of violence and the journey to healing from a childhood no child deserves.
I was 6 years old the first time my dad (or “Poppa” as I call him) put his hands on my mother. Or maybe that was the earliest memory I have of him doing so. We were sitting at the table eating breakfast and I remember being happy because my mom had made the smiley face pancakes that I loved so much. Two chocolate chips for the eyes, one for the nose, and five for the smile. She was rushing around the kitchen when my dad walked in and stopped to kiss her on top of the head–right before trying to steal a piece of bacon. I remember she laughed as she playfully pushed him away and went to tend to my little brother. That was their thing, you know? My dad being so much taller than my mom would always kiss her on top of her head and she would pretend she hated it. It was a running joke amongst our family for as long as I can remember. Anyway, Poppa sat down next to me at the table and was unfolding the paper when he asked mom about paying “Bill”. My mother turned red in the face as she begin explaining that she forget to pay “Bill” and that she would do it after she took me to school. Poppa got real quiet and the next thing I remember, he had her pinned against the refrigerator with her arm behind her back. I never finished my pancakes that day. It would also be another 3 years before I realized “Bill” wasn’t some evil person causing trouble in our household every month and making Poppa angry.
I was 7 years old the first time I saw a black eye on my mother. I had walked into the bathroom unannounced after she finished her evening shower and found her staring in the foggy mirror. She wiped away her tears quickly as she pushed me out of the door, but not before I saw the pain in and around her hazel eyes.
I was 8 years old the first time my mother broke her arm on “accident”. 9 years old when she “tripped” down the stairs. 10 years old when me and my brother had to stay with our grandparents for 2 weeks while my mother was in the hospital because she “wasn’t feeling well”. 11 years old when I got used to Poppa calling her a “dumb b*tch”. 12 years old when I started to believe she was a “dumb b*tch”. 13 years old when I started treating her like she was.
I was 14 years old when I realized I hated my mother almost as much as I loved her. And I hated myself for it.
I hated her for not standing up for herself against Poppa, but especially for not standing up for me or my little brother. I hated her for being too busy crying behind closed doors to see her children wiping away their own tears. I hated her for not seeing her worth and as a result, making it hard for me to see mine. I hated her for every broken lamp, every hole in the wall, and every shattered glass. I hated her for teaching me and my brother that anger and violence is synonymous with love.
My mother left Poppa when I was 15 years old. I know it wasn’t the easiest thing for her to do and after learning more about the cycle of domestic violence, I realize how much strength it took for her to do so. We don’t have the best relationship right now, but I am happy to say that we are working on it. My therapist told me that the anger I still have for my mother is really love dressed in displaced resentment. Resentment because she stayed and took away me and my brother’s choice to live in hell… resentment because she never believed the beauty that we saw in her.
Today, I am working on forgiving my parents for giving me a childhood I didn’t choose and that’s a start. Not just for me, but for my mother.
Thank you for listening.