Domestic Violence appears simple. People live together. One party beats, violates, or mentally abuses another party they live with and that equals Domestic Violence. With this simplistic view, persons’ who have never experienced beating, violation, or mental abuse come to believe that the solution is simple too. The person who is beating, belittling, or violating others should stop. The person getting beaten, belittled, or violated should leave. And that kind of thinking opens a world of blame for abuser AND victim. If the victim doesn’t leave or tell then there is something wrong with them. If the abuser doesn’t stop, then there is something wrong with them or there is some secret justification for what they do. In either case, the answer is simple, stop or leave and tell.
Here is a piece of truth. Any persons involved in domestic violence have something wrong with them. How “wrong” they are depends on the extent and length of time they are abused. I don’t like to say that victims, survivors, and thrivers of abuse are broken. I would say that their operating system has been corrupted by the virus of abuse. There are glitches in their abilities to executive function, emotionally connect, carry out the mundane functions of life, sleep, eat, have sex…the glitches will depend on how they processed and are processing the abuse they suffered. They can find alternative pathways to function. This means that how they have learned to function is forever altered – different from the parts of society not touched by abuse.
I am intimately familiar with domestic violence. My father was (is?) an explosive abusive and pedophile. My life was measured by moments of terror interrupted by moments of bizarre behavior, strange coping skills, and a broken family dynamic. Even my own memories of my abuse and childhood are a little suspect given that much of my abuse lives in a clouded space in my brain that my mind’s eye cannot penetrate. I am left with context clues, my body’s own reaction to stimuli, other people’s witnesses of my abuse, other peoples’ violation at my father’s hand, and the assurance of the many counselors I have had over the years that I am a thriver of sexual, physical, mental, and emotional abuse. This also leaves me feeling less than .. Unsure .. feeling a little crazy. As crazy as my biological family claims I have always been.
I have started and stopped this book throughout the years unclear where it was going to go or how it was going to get my story out there. I recently had a waking vision that my sister brought me a book to sign for her and said she was sorry, then walked away. When you have been abused, you long for love from those who didn’t give it, those who have denied the abuse and its devastating effects upon you. You want them to acknowledge your truths and then offer some consolation prize of sorrow at their disbelief and the actions they made because of their disbelief.
I would like to say that at nearly fifty-two years my desire for that type of acknowledgment from my biological family is gone. It is not. I have been cut off from my biological family on both my biological mother’s and biological father’s sides of the family. An uncle on my mother’s side told me point blank he didn’t believe me. An Aunt on my father’s side simply walked away in silence after I told her I wouldn’t attend my dying mother because she was complicit in the abuse I suffered. Goddess bless, I long so deeply, to have someone of my blood turn to me and say, “I believe you….I believe you.” I am not holding my breath. It would cost my biological family too much to believe me.
My biological father was (is?) a charismatic man. Loud booming laughter often preceded him wherever he went. Good-looking in his youth, he didn’t age well but still, people were drawn to him. My biological mother would later confirm something I had suspected since my college days, my biological father was afflicted with bipolar manic and depressive episodes and spent most of his life unmedicated. I will never forget her telling me.
“You can come back around now. He is so much better since he went on Prozac. Turns out he was bipolar or something all this time.”
Because in my deeply rooted southern family the current status quo was all that mattered. Nothing from the past should be permitted to touch the present. My father was better at this time and had a good excuse for his violent and violative behavior. Suck it up. Get over it. Move past it. Let it go! Just like a cartoon. Terrible things happen and upheaval is everywhere but no one suffers mentally for it. They just, “Let it go!” while singing about it all.
It is how my biological family still lives with blinders. It is culpability. If they could be friendly with this man for all these years and like him, then there is no way he was raping preteen girls, feeling those same girls up, or beating his family. Maybe some knew he beat the children with a belt during his blackout fits of rage, but we, my sister, my brother, and I had broken rules, lied, or done wrong. Maybe the way they “disciplined” back then was misguided but it was no more or less than anyone else of that time or before. Parents beat their children and children just got over it and maybe chose to parent differently. I am intimately familiar with the excuses given for abuse and the ways people around abuse dress that abuse up or try to diminish the impact abuse has or, ultimately, blame the victim.
Even still, I am cut off from my biological family because they would have to let go of a reality that for them is comfortable and friendly, even. They would need to face their own abuse suffered at my grandparent’s hand because make no mistake, this story of domestic violence doesn’t start with me, although, I pray often that none of my cousins or nieces and nephews suffered as I did and continued the violence passed their generation.
And that brings me back to this blog. Originally a long-worked on book entitled, “Fragile Heart, Indomitable Spirit.” A nod to the genetic condition I have had my whole life and the physical changes, literal changes to the DNA of my body, that my excruciating abuse caused. It also is a nod to the triumph I occasionally feel. I survived. I didn’t buckle to the beseeching and cajoling and threatening and ostracization meted out because I would not back down from my truth..the truth…the reality that I was repeatedly raped, physically abused, mentally gaslit, and emotionally crippled by my biological family.
I want to write down this reality and simultaneously reach out to other survivors with this story.
I want to say, “I believe you,” but do more.
I want to help shed light on what many clinical self-help books teach. They explain clinically how severely abused people act as an adult and why they act that way. What I have are the stories to fill in the gaps and truly demonstrate what that looks like. I want to help those who do love the horribly mistreated better understand us, support us, and love us.
But I realized today that my book in total may never be written. I am a busy minister in training, currently undertaking an Ordination track that requires class projects, class time, homework, and pre-work. I serve as a Distinguished Religious Group Leader at a base two hours from my home. I am disabled but work three days a week for a not-for-profit and spend my other time in ministry. I have a service animal that will always need refresher training.
So maybe I need to go about this differently. This blog will be my book. Put together over time. Come along with me and laugh, cry, be outraged, be comforted, moreover, come along and learn to help those whose childhoods were far from situations that anyone can easily let go of.