My father is an abuser. Emotional, verbal and physical. I have only personally experienced the emotional and verbal, but I know first hand of the physical. Since the physical abuse was not inflicted directly upon me, I will not speak of that topic. But I will speak of the emotional and verbal abuse that I experienced throughout my entire childhood and teen years at the hands of my father.
You may ask, why now? Why is it time to bring this to light? The answer is a simple one. I have finally found the courage to speak up. I have finally found the strength to speak out. It no longer will be a hush-hush thing that I shove under a rug for fear that it will "look bad" on me or my family. Abusers want that. They want their victims to remain silent, ridden with fear, guilt and shame. And truthfully, I'm shaking right now as I write this because the fear of backlash still rings in my head and pulses through my being when I think about speaking up. Luckily, I am surrounded by the most amazing support system and I know that I am fully protected from any harm that should attempt to come my way.
Here it is.....
The first time I remember my father yelling at me, I was 3 years old. He and my mom were steam cleaning the carpet in our home and I was perched at the top of the staircase watching them clean below. The cleaning vac was sitting in our tile entryway and had somehow managed to leak onto the floor. As I'm watching, my mother walked by and slipped on the tile and fell very hard onto her back and arm. She screamed out in pain and I screamed out in terror. After first yelling at my mom for falling, my father yelled at me, up the stairs "SHUT UP, LESLIE!!!" The feeling of watching my mother be hurt mixed with having my father invalidate my fear is one that I will never forget. Sadly, it was only one of countless times that I would feel this way.
My father yells. He yells loud and he yells often. I know these days yelling is very common, but that doesn't make it okay nor does it make it non-damaging. It is due to the damage that it caused me, that I refuse to yell when I'm arguing with someone. I also refuse to yell at my child. The few times I've slipped in an argument with someone, I've felt horrible afterwards, like somehow I was turning into him. And I certainly don't want to do that.
I remember being around 8 years old and hearing my mother and father fight in the other room. My father would always yell, and my mother would always answer him calmly. As it does with most abusers, this only enraged him, causing him to yell even louder. One particular fight left me bent over a chair in our guest room, clinging to my worn out Bible, praying to God to please make him stop. I remember around that same age telling my cousin that I wished her father was my father. Watching their relationship and how they were with each other caused me great jealousy. And then, of course, because I was a "good church kid," I felt guilt for my jealousy.
My father is also a controller. He controls by fear and manipulation (emotional abuse) and he does it well. Behind everything there was a threat; of what I wasn't quite sure, but I sure didn't want to find out. While I do believe in tough love and in having your children fear the consequences of their actions, I don't believe in having them fear YOU; the parent.
Around the same age (7-9) if we were out in public and I said something my father thought was out of line or something that didn't coincide with what he thought I should say, he would grab the back of neck and squeeze as hard as he possibly could. He would do it subtly so no one else would see. I cringe just thinking about it now. I truly feared my father.
For years I had reoccurring nightmares in which he would finally lose his cool one day and attack me. The days he was home (he worked a LOT when I was a kid), I would hide myself away in my room hoping that I didn't have to interact with him.
The years went by and the emotional abuse became more predominant. As I got older, I got a little bit more courage to tell my father how he made me feel. Wrong idea. As is common among abusers, my father would silence my feeling by telling me, "You shouldn't feel that way." "That's stupid."
Through the years my self-esteem went from low to lower. No one around knew what was happening and I was too scared to speak up. To the outside world my father was a stand-up guy; lots of friends, working two jobs to support his family, church going, tithe paying man. There was no way he could be an abuser. Must be some mistake.
At the age of 16 my parents divorced and I moved from my hometown to live with my mother near her family. However, I decided to return to my hometown for my first year of college. My father had just remarried and I had acquired a step-mother and step-sister. It should go without saying that the living situation did not turn out well. My father had not changed in the two years since I'd lived with him and the abuse started again. I remember one particular conversation in which I said, "You're going to do this again. You've done this to me and you're going to do it to her!" (referring to my little sister). His response was, "No I won't because no one is like you except you and your mother!" It was my fault. The years of abuse, they were my fault. I guess because I'm like my mother? The next week I packed my bags, dropped my classes and moved home. Roughly a year later I would plop into the couch of a therapist and when asked why I was there reply, "I will never be able to have a healthy relationship with a man, until I deal with my dad."
It's been 9 years since I first sat down in that therapist office and I'm still not okay. This is not something that goes away. It's not something prayer heals. It's not something space heals. It's not something time heals. It's something you learn to cope with. I will never "be okay." I will never not cringe when I hear a man yell loudly. I will never not have nightmares about being physically attacked. I will never get back those years of innocence that I lost.
But what I WILL do, is speak up. I will not be silenced. I will stand up and speak up for those who have been through what I've been through and for those who are in it now. I will do everything within my power to make sure that they know there is hope and there is help.
If you are being abused in any way shape or form, tell someone. I know that it seems impossible to find the strength inside of you, but it's there. I promise you. You do not have to put up with it a day longer. You do not deserve it. You are not worthless. You are an amazing person who has a full life ahead of you, I don't care what anyone else has told you. They lied. You are worth taking the step and walking away.
The National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
Texas Abuse Hotline: 1-800-252-5400