Faculty Instructor: Sean Murray
I never asked. Every part of me wanted to know why, but I never gathered the courage to ask. Sometimes it’s better to keep silent even if the silence nearly kills you. But the same question just hovered over my shoulders, pressing down on me, grasping me, suffocating me with its merciless clutches. But I never said a word, mostly because I didn’t want to hurt my mother by reminding her of the wounds that were still fresh. Her wounds were like icebergs. They only showed on the outside and to the world they were like small patches of ice floating on the smooth sea. But they were much deeper on the inside, and I’m sure they pierced her from within. I didn’t want to rub salt on them. Instead, I wanted the icebergs within her to melt. So I always kept all my questions locked within my heart and put on a mask of oblivion. The only time that I was able to think out loud was when all the lights were off, all the curtains had been drawn, and when I was sure that my mother had closed her eyes and drifted off into deep sleep. That’s when those moments would come back to haunt me. That’s when I’d replay all those moments, over and over again…
The door broke open with a loud bang that my mother and I had gotten used to. In stepped a filthy looking man with dirty, torn clothes and shoes. I didn’t know what was filthier – his appearance or his intentions. He stepped inside the house, bringing in all the filth and dirt from the outside world. But the smut that he had brought into our world was much worse. The silence that had taken over the house was equivalent to the silence before a perilous storm. We’d watch him drink all day as if his only companion was alcohol. It was as though we never even existed. And when he’d get tired of our existence, he’d go out on the streets to pour more alcohol into his system. He walked down the stairs slowly, his footsteps constantly reminding us that he was getting closer and closer and that he would bring something new to the table tonight. I saw him lean close into my mother’s face. As he opened his mouth to speak, the abominable smell of alcohol and cigarettes took over the entire room. I stood there and took it all in, because God knew what he would have done to me if I had wrinkled up my face with disgust.
“Make me food,” I heard him say in his husky, monstrous voice. “Go. Get me food. Go. NOW!” he hollered over the top of his lungs. I saw my mother shake as she succumbed to his orders. But I stood there. Hot blood began rushing through my veins as my heart pound with anger and fear. I suddenly felt my face get hot and fiery as he looked right into my eyes.
“You! Go inside. Get out of my sight you worthless thing. LEAVE!” I hurried away from him like a helpless animal. It was as though he was a merciless hunter who was after my life, waiting to hold me in his rough, filthy hands just so that he could crush me. But I ran into the other room and shut the door on him. I found a corner to sit in and started to collect teardrops on the palms of my hands. I was interrupted by my mother’s screams coming from the kitchen. I was accustomed to those screams and cries, but every time I heard them it felt like they were new. I heard the glass shatter. I heard his brutal voice and slurred speech. I heard my mother’s silence. I heard everything. When the front door slammed shut I knew he was gone. I rushed to the kitchen to find my mother sitting in a small corner. She looked feeble, wounded and bruised.
We were sat in opposite corners when it happened, but were shedding the same tears that steamed from the same fear because of the same person. And neither one of us could do anything about it.
That day was etched in my mind and heart. It was there like a permanent scar and there was nothing in the world that was going to free me from it. It was the inescapable truth of our lives. It was difficult to live with it, and growing up with it was even harder. But we couldn’t have coexisted. It was either me or him…
“He never wanted you.” My aunt was probably the only person who was willing to expose me to the truth. Everyone else wanted me to live in a bubble; they wanted me to float away from the truth without asking any questions. But I wanted to know everything.
“He never wanted you, honey.” She continued. “You should be happy that you’re alive. You should be happy that you exist. The day he found out that your mother was going to have you he dragged her into the abortion clinic and tried to bribe the doctor into getting you aborted. He never wanted you.” He never wanted you. It rang in my ears like an evil chant. He never wanted you.
“He tried everything he possibly could have to make sure that he killed you before you came into this world, even if that meant killing your mother. He’d deprive her of food and sleep. We didn’t know who he hated more – his wife or you.” We didn’t know who he hated more.
“Thank goodness Mom and Dad found out in time and took her back into their house or else he would have killed the both of you. The last memory that your mother has of him was when he held her up against the wall and tried to choke her to death. That was the last time she saw him…” When he held her up against the wall and tried to choke her to death.
“…He wasn’t there to see you come into the world. He was sitting on some dirty road, intoxicated, his mind taken over by drugs and alcohol. What a waste of talent. What a waste of life. He was a scientist, an athlete, an actor. He was actually an amazing actor. He was able to put on a mask for three whole years before marrying your mother and demolishing her world.” He wasn’t there to see you come into this world.
It was true, he wasn’t there for anything. He wasn’t there when I first spoke. He wasn’t there when I took my first steps and tumbled back to the ground. He wasn’t there when my teachers wanted to congratulate him for my accomplishments. He wasn’t there to carry me on his shoulders when I couldn’t see the parade because it was too crowded. He wasn’t there to heal the scrapes and wounds that I had gotten after falling off of my bike. He wasn’t there to kiss me goodnight. He was never there. The only souvenir of his existence in my life is the question that continues to hover over my shoulders. Why? I’ll never know…
He was home! Oh no. He was home. I scurried away like a little squirrel trying to find some shelter that would protect me from his grasp. My mother stood still knowing that any effort to escape his sight would result in a longer, tougher battle. I could hear myself gasping for air, running around in little circles because that was all a toddler could have done. I picked up speed and ran faster thinking I’d be able to escape somehow. But I came to a rapid stop as soon as I saw his 6’3” body towering over my head. I don’t remember what he looked like. I just know he looked like a monster. I felt my heart almost jump out of my chest as he took my arm and pulled me to the top of the stairs. I turned back. There were tears in my eyes at this point, but through my teary eyes I could see a blurred image of my mother frantically following him, desperately trying to free me from his clutches. But she couldn’t. He was at the top now. He had control. I heard my mother beg and plead, but he was deaf to her cries and with extreme hatred in his eyes, he threw me down the stairs. The scars are still there.
My mother and I were sitting in one small corner of the world, oblivious to the fact that there were hundreds of other women and children who shared similar fates as our own. Those terrifying nights, those piercing screams, the burning tears that we both were accustomed to weren’t unique to us. They had taken over countless lives, turning dreams into nightmares. As I grew older, I realized this nightmare had a name: domestic violence. And I wasn’t the only child fearing it.
Domestic violence is not only the truth of my dark past, but is also the dirty truth that continues to shape the lives of more than three million children whom witness it each year. When children are exposed to a violent household with mental, emotional and physical abuse, not only do they grow up with intense psychological impacts, but are also more prone to sickness and disease (Chemaly, 2012.) Although my mother and I left my father to rot on those dirty streets long ago and have never thought of looking back, there are thousands of women in the US who succumb to domestic violence and continue to live with the fear. In the US, the number of people who experience intimate partner violence per minute is 24. With the majority of these people being women. Still, however, only 1 in 4 women will report the case and will choose to make a difference (Chemaly, 2012.) Others will tolerate the abuse, not only harming themselves by wanting to survive in a fatal environment, but also snatching away the carefree lifestyle that every child deserves to have. Tolerating the abuse, however, does not cover up the fact that every 9 seconds a woman in the US is assaulted, and that every day more than three women are killed by their husbands or boyfriends (Williams, 2013.)
A woman should never have to have her strength tested in the form of having to undergo repeated trials of abuse and violence. My mother was able to escape the life that would have ended fatally if she had chosen to give up. Not all women, however, are able to stand up for themselves and make a difference in their lives because of the constant fear that rings in their ears and overshadows their confidence. Attempting to put an end to domestic violence cannot be an option anymore – domestic violence is a societal problem that has been ruining families and lives for generations now. Instead, women should aspire to find their voices in a bid to putting an end to the silence that worryingly continues to only end their lives. Domestic violence is like a dirty leech that sucks the life out of a growing family. Rather than going out in the wild and attempting to kill parasites, it is much more effective to become aware of the leech and its existence instead. Thus, educating women about the effects of domestic violence on children and women living under the same dark cloud can help stop the monstrous hand poised to kill them. Ninety – two percent of women with children report domestic violence in their homes (Chemaly, 2012.) Why not change this statistic by bringing a change in the woman herself?
My father’s dirty voice still rings in my ears sometimes. His ruthless face still haunts me. But when the sunlight hits my mother’s beautiful face every morning, I realize that his existence was just a bad dream, a bad storm in our lives. The storm has passed and the skies have cleared, but the dark clouds still haunt other lives. Let’s walk towards the sun’s warm rays and leave the thunder behind. Let’s put an end to this loud silence without putting an end to ourselves.
Chemaly, Soraya. “50 Facts About Domestic Violence.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 30 Nov. 2012. Web. 17 Feb. 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soraya-chemaly/50-actual-facts-about-dom_b_2193904.html>.
“Domestic Violence: Statistics & Facts.” Safe Horizon ::. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Feb. 2014. <https://www.safehorizon.org/index/what-we-do-2/domestic-violence–abuse-53/domestic-violence-statistics–facts-195.html>.
Williams, Tanya Young. “The Silence Surrounding Domestic Violence Is Deafening.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 07 Nov. 2013. Web. 17 Feb. 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tanya-young-williams/domestic-violence-awarene_1_b_4216629.html>.