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This is the fourth post in this series, to start from the beginning, please click here.
Disclaimer: I wrote this in 2013 to share my testimony with the world in the hopes of helping other children faced with abuse. Most times, you will be the only person to advocate for a child that cannot stand up for themselves. Children in abusive situations are taught to conceal every aspect of abuse, so if you by chance are able to see something, it may be the only opportunity for rescue a child has. Please take the appropriate steps to report child abuse. I have since rewritten and updated these posts to make them more understandable and up to my current writing standards.
Punished for joy
I think the first time I recognized he hated my happiness was when I was in kindergarten. My teacher announced that we were going to have a pajama pizza party. I needed to bring a paper home to inform my parents and get their consent. I was so excited. It was school, I had already missed so many days from being too bruised up that they would have to let me go. That morning I don’t remember why, but we were late. He walked me to school and I couldn’t contain my excitement. There was nothing he could do to take away my joy once I was inside my classroom. But as we reached the halfway point to my school, he turned me around and told me I wasn’t going. Instead he took me home and beat me.
Looking back, there was a point where I recognized that just the thought of me being happy equaled a beating. I had to learn to hide my joy. But for so long I was so naive. I dreamed about that pizza party for years. I imagined what happened, and what the pizza tasted like. Because I dreamed about it so much I forged a memory in my mind as if it really happened. I can still picture it and I’m 30 years old. I hated him for robbing me from that experience.
On the rare occasions that I wasn’t on restriction my mother would bring home Lisa Frank sets for me. I only got a few sets but when I did I cherished them, they were my most prized possessions. And since I wasn’t on restriction it meant I got to play outside with my brother and sister. Every time I would get a Lisa Frank set, I would bring it with me, and every time, I would leave it at the park and forget them. The last set I received, I actually remembered to bring it home. I was in our room looking at them. So happy that I still had them, vowing that next time I would hide them at home somewhere to keep safe.
And then I heard the sound of his car. Terror struck. Being off restriction was very uncommon for me so I never really knew what to do with myself. I stayed in the room, just looking at my stickers. Already shaking, knowing something bad would happen, I heard him come through the door and he headed straight for me. I wasn’t in trouble. I didn’t do anything wrong. But as soon as I looked up, he punched me in the face. My nose began to bleed all over my precious stickers and notepads. They were all ruined. It’s crazy looking back thinking about how I was more devastated about all the blood and not about what he did. This was my reality. I had to take it.
Alienated from reality
When I would go to school I would hear about a world that was hard to believe existed. I didn’t have more than two friends at a time up through fifth grade because I didn’t know how to socialize. I was bullied and harassed beginning in the third grade because my hair was cut to about an inch long, thanks to my mother. Which made me rock something that resembled an unkept fro, plus I had coke bottle glasses. The perfect recipe for being picked on.
I never got close to anyone but I always observed the other kids. Their lives were so interesting. They would go to birthday and slumber parties. They would go to ballet class or play sports. It was all so hard for me to imagine. I didn’t even know what half of the stuff was. When they talked about their lives, I couldn’t relate, I could barely understand what they meant.
I don’t remember even going to the mall. The only place we ever went was to the grocery store on rare occasions and we weren’t allowed to ask for a single thing. As we passed the other kids in the store we saw them grabbing things and putting them in their cart, or asking for snacks. I was always jealous of them. We ate what was made for us without complaining. And to be honest, I was grateful to be able to eat, even when it was punishment food because anything was better than when they starved us.
There wasn’t a part of my existence that wasn’t penetrated by his rules. When we would go outside we had a million boundaries. We had to stay inside the fenced playground and not go outside of it to the field or the basketball court. We were never allowed to swim at any of the pools in our apartment complex. And we always had to look over our shoulder because at random times he would come out and watch us.
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But all of that never stopped me from being stubborn and trying to be like all the other kids. I figured one day that it was time for me to ride a bike, so like all the other lessons in life, I decided I would need to teach myself. Thankfully there were plenty of kids with bikes around that would let me borrow theirs. And so I taught myself, and when I would ride on a bike I felt like I was free.
There was a day when I was especially daring and decided I was going to ride a bike wherever I wanted to. Across the street from the park, in between the apartment buildings, there was a pool that had a sidewalk surrounding it. That sidewalk went down a hill and into the street. So as I was riding, I decided it would be fun to ride it down the hill, so down I went. The problem with teaching yourself things, is that you don’t have the wisdom to see the things that could go wrong.
As I came down that hill and picked up speed I went darting into the street and got hit by a car. The bike I was riding, along with me, ended up underneath the car. I stood up and the man got out. Out of fear of what could happen at home I begged the man to not take me home. I had to convince him I was fine and I made him pull the bike out and drive off. My leg was really hurt but I knew it was nothing compared to what could happen if he found out that I was somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be, doing something I wasn’t supposed to do.
The fear of him was so crippling to me that in a moment where I needed a parent to comfort me I was alone. Being a child should have been my priority but instead I knew that I had to grow up and get over everything in order to survive. I didn’t have a “mommy” and “daddy”. I had no one to tell me that everything was going to be alright. No one to save me, and no one to trust enough to tell what was going on in our home.
As time went on everything intensified
As we got older, what we got in trouble for became more random than ever. Nothing ever made any sense, and you never knew if your next step would land you in trouble.
When I was about eight or nine years old I came home from school and needed a pen to do my homework. So I found one on the table and took it to our room. When I was done with it I left it on one of our dressers. When he came home he found the pen and wanted to know who had used it. Terrified of what would happen, I lied and said that it wasn’t me.
So to figure out who was the culprit he made the three of us sit at the table, my brother first, me and then my sister. He started with my brother and asked him if he had used it. When he said no, he took a belt and whipped my brother across the face with it. Then came my turn. I was horrified.
I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t want to be whipped across my face, but I also knew the real punishment would be much worse. So I lied and said no and got the same consequence. And then it was my sisters turn. I don’t know why I allowed them to go through what I was going through. Maybe I had felt like it was only me for so long, or maybe I was too frightened to find out what the real punishment was. But when it came back to my turn I confessed.
I don’t know how he punished me afterwards because I blacked out. Seems I did that a lot. I wish I could say that when he was beating me I would go to some happy place and think of other things. But that pain was too real–too overwhelming. I always told myself what didn’t kill me would make me stronger. That there was a reason I was going through all of that.
As the years came and went the fear started to set in. It crippled me. Those assigned seats that we had on the couch and on my bed became my reign of terror. I would sit there, shaking, waiting for him to come home, wondering what kind of mood he was in. By this time, our routine was set, even though at random times new punishments would appear. My mom and him loved learning what I didn’t like so they could use it against me. When I think of the things he did to me, there’s only a few times that I can remember what I actually did wrong to deserve the punishment. In my opinion there was nothing I could have done to deserve what he did. Being the target of someone’s unpredictable rage was too much for a child to bear.
“Then my head will be exalted above
the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice
with shouts of joy; I will sing
and make music to the Lord.”
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Please feel free to share this, my hope is that through my brokenness I can save other children from abuse.
Are you a victim of abuse? How can I pray for you?