It's untitled because I don't know what to call it. And just a little word of warning…this post might be hard for some to read. I hope you'll keep reading to the end. It's my truth and my story. Thank you.
Did you know that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month?
This is not something I usually talk about in public nor is it something I share readily…my dear friends know these things about my childhood but this year for some reason, I feel strongly about sharing this. With you. It feels like the right time.
When I was a child growing up in Southern California and Central Florida, we looked like the typical Asian-American Catholic churchgoing family with a mom and a dad and six kids (five girls and one boy). Our mom worked a lot, sometimes two or three jobs. Sometimes, our biological father worked, sometimes not. To family, friends and neighbors, he was the ultimate Mr. Mom.
We were all hiding a deep dark secret, one we were too afraid to share. Because A) he told us he would kill us if we ever told anyone and B) because we were afraid if anyone found out, all six siblings would be split up.
My biological father was mentally, physically and verbally abusive. And I can go further but out of respect for other family members, that’s all I’ll say.
And no this wasn’t a spanking or discipline. This was abuse. This was a punch in the gut when you said something wrong or couldn’t find the pair of scissors or the tape. This was getting beaten with a two-by-four because you were an idiot (in his eyes) for not bringing home straight As on your report card.
We were told repeatedly that we were nothing without him and continuously told how stupid we were. We were told that we were not good enough and that we always needed to try harder. Harder. We lived in terror. every. single. day. We didn’t know when one of his mood swings would come along and we would get swept up. I lived in fear for myself and for my siblings. It was the worst thing to see the look of terror in my brother or my sisters’ eyes when they were about to get hit or beaten.
Today, I’m thirty-five years old, married to an amazing guy, named Curtis, who puts me first and would never dream of laying a hand on me. We have our moments, our marriage isn’t perfect and we are constantly working on it. But I can’t imagine going through life with anyone else.
My parents got divorced when I was twelve years old. All of us lived with my Mom. I’m so thankful for my Mom and her strength to walk away from him and be there for us in ways we didn’t know we needed.
What I have learned is when you are a victim of abuse, whether you are a child or a battered wife or husband, it is not your fault. It is not your fault. Please remember this always.
I cannot even begin to describe to you the frustration and anger I have when I hear someone on the news or someone in front of my face say(s), “why doesn’t she just leave him”? Why does she take it? She doesn’t take anything. He has taken everything from her. Abusers beat you down mentally and physically and build you back up in their mold so they can control you. It takes a lot of work and dare I say strength to leave your abuser. It’s not that easy and I would never say if someone can’t leave their spouse that they are not strong enough. It’s a complicated web and it’s not just as easy as “leaving him”. A lot of women die at the hands of their abusers in this country, so for someone who is being abused, their fear for their life is very real.
You would get it if you experienced it. How about that? That might sound harsh or cold but honestly, you don’t get it if you have never experienced someone punching you until you can’t stand any longer and that someone is supposed to love you. That someone is supposed to protect you but they are hurting you. And someone who tells you that they won’t kill you if you run away, they will put you in a wheelchair so that your children can laugh at you for the rest of your life.
These words are so awful…all of what I’m describing is what happened to us and was said to us by my biological father.
At fifteen years old (three years after their divorce), I realized I needed help and sought counseling with a therapist. At the first visit, I told her about my childhood. She told me she was bound by law to report abuse against minors. I felt sucker punched because the next thing I knew, all six of us one by one, sat at our dining table in front of my mom and stepdad, each had to tell our version of the events of our childhood to a social worker from the state's Department of Children and Families. The therapist had called them to report what I had told her and since I was a minor, they had to investigate.
By this time, I had not seen my biological father in three years and he was no longer in our lives and yet I felt we were the ones on trial…having to prove to the social worker that we were fine. We were fine. They could leave us alone. I understand why it had to be done and I get it. But I will never understand why we were made to feel as if we were on trial, having to prove that we were okay, he was out of our lives and yet we weren’t ok. I’m hoping that I make sense.
And yet, I can say today that I love my life, I love my husband and I love my family and none of this was my fault. None of this was my mother’s fault. We were so incredibly lucky to have friends like Keith & Carolyn who helped us and let us stay with them for a few days until we could get back on our feet and were there for us through the years. And friends who I called Grandma Leona and Grandpa Eddie who brought us groceries and took me to softball practice. They gave us everything and never asked for anything in return. They will never know the depths of my gratitude and how much they shaped me with their gifts. Things are still not easy though, I’m working through some issues and recently started therapy myself (twenty years after trying that first time at fifteen). Twenty-three years after my parents divorced, I’m facing some real things that I have long since pushed aside and buried and am realizing that it’s time to face them.
Writing this and talking about this is never easy…but it needs to be talked about. Yes, when you see a child with bruises, you need to investigate and alert someone, especially if they can’t give you a straight answer. If you are a teacher and a child clings to you at school and doesn’t look forward to the weekends and asks to go home with you…you should question this and investigate further. As adults, it is our duty to make sure our children (our future) are not being abused by people who are supposed to love and protect them. And it’s our duty to recognize the signs of child abuse.
I do want to say something…I didn’t write this for sympathy, I never want to come off that way and that’s certainly not my purpose in writing this. I feel stupid typing those words but I had to. We live in a sugar-coated, beautiful insta filter, everything is perfect in social-media-land world and I’m one of those people. I don’t want to be negative online and venting and ranting online is just unprofessional. So I usually only share positive things going on in my life.
So why share then?
- Because no amount of ignoring this (my situation or others' situations) will make domestic violence go away.
- I feel it's my duty to share my experience so that others can be educated and others can see there is hope. I firmly believe there's always hope.
- Because as sad as this may sound, I do sometimes feel alone. I hope by sharing it will help me feel less alone.
Quite honestly, you never know the baggage someone is carrying and you never know the pain someone is going through when you see them on Facebook or see them on the street. I hope we can all have more compassion for others and I hope I can help one or two children escape their abuser by sharing this with you.
Here are some resources in case you or someone you know needs them:
Child Help (Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse); call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453
The National Domestic Violence Hotline; call them at 1-800-799-7233
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN); call them at 1-800-656-HOPE(4673)