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Constantly living to survive changes you. Fear was at the forefront of my emotions at all times. I had to learn how to adapt quickly to his millions of rules or suffer the consequences. There was no hope. No solace. No comfort. Just pain, fear and trembling. How he chose to abuse me differed from day to day, depending on his moods or the circumstances. It was rare that a day went by without being punished for something. The best days were the days right after a beating. Bruises had to heal a bit before he could give me new ones. But just because he wasn’t inflicting physical pain on the days in between, didn’t mean that I got a pass on suffering.
This is the third 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.
His Cycle of Abuse
There seems to be a cycle in abuse. The anger, the violence, the blame and then the apology. We moved when I was five years old to another city. And that’s when the abuse got worse. It was always the same. He made some outrageous claim that I did something wrong. If I looked the wrong way, sat the wrong way, said or did the wrong thing. If he was angry and just needed someone to take it out on, I was his target.
And then the beating came. And then the blame on me came, that it was my fault. Then of course, the apology. He was always so sorry as he rubbed vasoline on all of my bruises to make them go away faster. Just so he could do it again. Even though after his apologies, he promised it would never happen again. Can he be our dad again? Is it ok if we still call him that? He’d make it up to us.
His arsenal of abuse
He seemed to always have his favorite forms of hurting me. Although he got creative sometimes.
When we first moved in, he would pick me up by my shirt and wring me back and forth. Pulling the shirt away from me and then punching me in the chest as I flung towards him. All of my shirt collars would rip. And then I would get in more trouble for having ripped clothes. But that got expensive. So he stopped when I got a little older.
The way he hit me was always different. It seemed like I could never pin point where it would come from. Whether it was an open hand, a closed fist, or an object. By the time I got into second or third grade he stopped hitting me in the face, unless it was summer time and I didn’t have to go to school. Concealing bruises became a huge concern in our household. He had to make sure to hit me where no one could see. The top of my arms, my chest, back and legs. My butt was reserved for his belt.
I don’t know when he brought his infamous leather belt home. But it was terrifying. It was at least a half an inch thick. And it had holes in it. I had to lay down naked on their bed while he whipped me. I wasn’t ever allowed to cry. Not even a peep or whimper or I would get more lashes. Most times I just blacked out from the pain. Like my mind was trying to protect itself. When we moved away from that apartment years later, I found that belt. It was so warn that it was torn in the middle. There were black marks all over our walls from it. They were everywhere. No place was safe from that belt. And neither was any part of our bodies.
He introduced us to restriction shortly after we moved into the new apartment. I can’t really compare it to being grounded.
We were confined to our bed. We had to sit down in a specific spot, backs straight and stare at the wall. I had to request permission to stand up, to stretch, to use the bathroom and to eat.
Being on restriction became my life at home. If I were to guess, out of the seven years of him living with us-I spent about half a year in total not being on restriction. My sister and brother joined me sometimes but it was rare.
I was usually all alone in our room. As the family moved on with their lives and he stuck me out of sight. I heard the movies they watched and the games they played. I longed to eat at the table with them instead of in our room or not at all. There were times where I would come out of the room finally able to be in the living room and there was a new couch set, or afghan. They moved furniture around and nothing was the same. It seemed like I sat in that room for weeks on end. Never leaving, always distant from everyone else.
Our apartment had two bedrooms so I shared a room with my siblings. My brother had a bunk bed and my sister’s and my bed were squished together underneath it. The ends of our beds faced out and away from my brother’s bunk and that’s where I would sit.
While on restriction I would find ways to entertain myself. I would hide staples in between our beds so that I could use them to clean out my fingernails or make shapes with them. If I heard him coming I would stash them back into my hiding place.
When I went to school I would never do my homework during free time so that I could take it home and have something to do. I would take as long as possible on my homework before resuming my spot on the bed to stare at the blank wall.
At times when I was on restriction but also able to eat at the table with the family I would have to keep my head down and only look at my food so I couldn’t watch TV. If I was caught looking up, my dinner time was over and I would have to stand in the corner. I was thankful that the TV would suck him in so that he wouldn’t get up to beat me but instead just send me to the corner. I would take numb legs over bruises any day.
Being braver than my fear
The way our apartment was set up, outside of our room was a hallway that stretched down to their room, with an opening in the middle that led to the living room on the right and the dining room on the left. Across from the opening was the bathroom. On days where I felt brave while I was on restriction, I would sneak out into the hallway and press my back up against the wall so I could watch the TV in the living room.
If Marvin got up, the couch squeaked and I would run on my tip toes back to my spot on the bed, but if he moved too fast I would dart for the bathroom as if I needed to use it. I would rather get in trouble for using the bathroom without asking than get caught watching TV. Fear became constant in my life. There was no escaping him. He always threatened that he was watching us and so we always followed his rules no matter where we were. But I always tried to find ways to find light in my darkness.
I don’t remember when punishment foods were introduced. But once they were there was no turning back. If I ever showed a dislike for any food it became a part of my punishment. He would make me swallow spoonfuls of horseradish, eat spam and drink his beers. If I showed at all I didn’t like something then I had to eat it for all of my meals until he said otherwise. Sometimes that meant eating potfuls of oatmeal or cream of wheat.
His favorite was to give me peanut butter and tomato sandwiches. I hated tomatoes. I would have to eat the sandwiches for breakfast lunch and dinner. There were times when I would vomit them up and then a new sandwich was made.
One time I was sitting in the dark at the table eating one and I slid the tomato onto the chair next to me hoping I would get the chance to throw it away.
A golden opportunity came for my mother to save me when she saw it laying there. We made eye contact, and she saw the fear in my eyes. She saw me silently begging for her to help me. But instead she told him. She always told. I was a smart kid but I don’t know why I always had faith that one day she would step up and help me. Those sandwiches were the worst of all the foods.
I once hid a half eaten one under my sister’s bed and we consequently got cockroaches. When he found out I had a huge price to pay. But the day the apartment got “bug bombed” they took us to see Titanic in theaters. To me it was all worth it. It was the first time I had been to the movies in years.
I don’t know which I hated worse, the punishment foods or not eating at all. The summers were the worst. There as no school breakfast or lunch to save us.
We would go days without eating. It was obvious that they didn’t want us there. We couldn’t eat and we had to sleep in super late in the mornings. And most of those mornings we had to get up and dry heave in the bathroom. There was no food in our bellies so nothing came out but clear liquid.
There was a night that they went out and left us at home in bed to sleep for the night. My brother snuck in the kitchen to get us some grapes. He didn’t want to take too much so that they would notice they were gone. We devoured what we could. I’m still grateful for that night. I’m not sure if it was a game to him-to push us as far as we could go without food. But it if it was, it was a game he played often.
I’ll never get my innocence back
I was constantly wondering, what did we do? What did I do to deserve his constant lashing out of anger on me? I’ll never know. I can only remember a handful of reasons why he punished us. The reasons I can remember led to the greatest pain. There wasn’t any space in our house for joy. When I look back at the time he was a part of my life I only remember being sad and scared-fear trembling scared. He stole my joy. My sense of safety. My trust. It took years to gain these back, I still don’t know if I fully have them. I don’t know what it’s like to have innocent trust.
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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?