My husband really hates when I start a sentence with “I started thinking…”, cause he knows how my mind works.
Unfortunately, one day I started thinking about how my mom and I would spend entire days out of the house. Just recently because of hubby’s work schedule (sleeping during the day, working at night), Bitty and I had been doing the same thing. And it reminded me of my mom, which reminded me of this one time when we avoided home for several months, which reminded me of the reason we couldn’t go home, which tied into the fact that I should write this post for Domestic Abuse Awareness Month. So here I am.
I believe it was the summer or around the time of the start of a new school year. I used to get so nervous…it was only my first couple years of school so I hadn’t made any deep relationships that lasted through the summer. But this particular year it was a good thing I didn’t have any school friends that I saw through the break. Otherwise I would have had to explain the bruises on my mom’s face.
That was the summer my uncle beat the crap out of her.
It started out as a typical day, my mom and my grandmother fighting. It’s what they did. I never got used to the yelling but that’s just the way it was. If you were to ask me what they would fight about, what they were fighting about that particular day, I couldn’t tell you. The arguments were ridiculous, even my young inexperienced self could tell you that.
For whatever reason, this argument escalated very quickly and my mom, with her open palm slapped my grandmother. I know. Not good. I never saw the slap but what happened after that quickly overshadowed what she had done.
My uncle, her brother, who was a good 6 inches taller and heavier got up and grabbed her. He then proceeded to punch, slap, and slam her against the walls. I’m not sure if I screamed. I think I did. I know I was stunned and rooted to the place I had been standing when the fight first began.
They moved from the kitchen, into the dinning room, around the hallway, back towards where I was and ended in the bedroom her and I shared in my grandma’s home. I remember seeing my uncle on top of my mom on the bed with his hands around her throat, choking her. So I must have moved.
I never spoke about what happened to anyone until I met my husband and the one time I spoke of it in counselling many many years later. I didn’t realize how frightening that experience had been until I explained to my counsellor how my mom and her brother had come to make up after that huge fallout. How it was Halloween at the time and I had made a paper-mache mask for the holiday that I wore when my mom informed me that she had made up with him and that I had to go say hello. My counsellor thought that I was such a clever little girl for putting up that barrier between us. I told her it was because I wanted to show him my mask and that I wasn’t scared at all.
I grew up around violence. My mom’s other brother is a schizophrenic and cocaine addict. Mental illness or not, he was the perpetrator of several incidences of domestic abuse against my mom and myself. But that’s just the way it was. It was almost normal to have these crazy moments of intense anger and violence. There was always an excuse, always a justification.
Only now, I know better. I don’t spank my kids, my husband and I don’t raise our voices to each other (normally!) and nobody hits each other in anger. It is calm and peaceful in our home.
Every man, woman and child deserves that. If someone you know doesn’t feel safe in their own home, or cannot go home because they don’t know what will happen next, or are afraid to make a mistake because of what will happen to them — then you need to do something. You need to help this person anyway that you can.
Because the alternative is much worse.
People like Manjit Panghali are suffering every day never knowing that that day could be their last. 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will have their childhood innocence taken from them. While people like us — the people who know someone who has been the victim of domestic abuse (and don’t we all know someone) are holding vigils to remember those who lost their lives in a senseless act of violence.
I know we can’t change the world. I know that getting involved in someone’s life feels too intrusive for most people, but holding each other accountable, refusing to accept that that’s just the way some cultures do it, speaking up about this taboo topic, reaching out to someone who might need your help – it will make a difference.
So do it. Say something. Help someone. Teach your own kids with love not anger. Come together as a global community and take care of each other. It’s the only way I see how this world can be a better place.