- Family and Parenting
Memoir of a Domestic Violence Survivor
At my step-sister's wedding, an older woman with beaming eyes asked me, "Do you want to get married?"
I looked right at her, and said, "No."
When she asked why not, I replied, "You don't want to know."
The topic of marriage has always made me uneasy. Others assume everyone has marriage on their list of life goals, but when you have a close seat to what marriage laws are capable of, you may not want to be anywhere near it.
To clarify what I'm allowed to share legally it should be all except real names, and since I don't even use my first name on here, I should be fine.
Who will experience domestic violence by a romantic partner in their lifetime?
1 in 4 women
1 in 7 men
Society makes domestic violence, rape and such to be taboo subjects. I can't imagine why since they are all about innocent people being put in danger. Maybe, it's to distract society from learning how little the government actually helps in those situations. Maybe, it's to continue ignorance, so people will think that happens in "special cases." Society creates scenarios which are easier to stomach than "authorities allowed this to happen" and "none of the victims asked for it/saw it coming." In my mom's case, both of those are true and I think it's important for people to hear her story as well as my own.
Have you ever been abused?
"Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families."
The Huffington Post, Alanna Vagianos
The Marriage and Divorce
My parents were married for ten years. They're both teachers. My mom teaches art and my dad teaches English. They had issues conceiving and it wasn't for quite a while that my dad agreed to be tested, finally. He was found to be sterile; therefore, my brother and I are donor babies.
Like my mom says, it was difficult to hear at the time, but who knew it'd be a blessing, later? To make him feel better, my mom allowed him to choose my name and my brother's; unfortunately, after my brother and I were born, a few years apart, my dad began abusing all of us. It is for this reason that most of my friends call me by a nick-name rather than the name my abusive father gave me.
My mom had back surgery, and was unemployed. So, it was lucky when she was able to recover enough to work as well as be employed, again, at all. Many married domestic abuse victims are entirely financially dependent on their abuser, and therefore cannot get out. My dad left on New Years of 1991. Before he left, he threatened to run my mom over with his truck, while she was holding me. My dad moved into an apartment, and continued abusing my brother and I.
When the case went to court, my mom was able to get a divorce, keep the house, and her children with joint-custody, but no extra money beyond child support, which my dad would cut back on like a boss who refuses to pay what was earned. There was a financial arrangement for my brother and I with education. Our parents were splitting college finances: 60% from my dad and 40% from my mom. My dad had fought that, but gave up.
Considering my father was a threat to my family's well-being, one would wonder how he didn't go to jail. Well, my mom didn't have the evidence needed to prove the abuse. She had photos of her bruises, but that wasn't sufficient enough. In fact, the judge told her, "Children are better off with two parents than with one." Apparently, this includes a parent who abuses those children. If you ask me, children are better off with at least one nurturing parent.
And people wonder why anyone would view marriage negatively.
Once, I asked my mom where she found bruises on me when I would come back from my weekend with dad. She told me they were on my upper-arms. This triggered a memory of when my dad was mad at me while we were living at my step-mom's. I was in a time-out chair, which didn't exist at my mom's house since we would be sent to our rooms, and I nagged him for putting me in a stupid chair. Understandably, he became angry. Not so understandable, he grabbed me by my upper-arms and carried me like that to his room where he threw me on his bed to yell at me. Was my mom making up that my dad would grab my brother and I by our upper-arms? With this memory, I believe her.
10,000,000 children are exposed to domestic violence every year.
My Teen Years: Seeing Clearly
As a teen, I was furious with my father. I was too young to remember the abuse, but the way my mom spoke of my dad made me hate him. One night, when I was thirteen, I had particularly bad anxiety because of all of my negative feelings. The panic attack inspired me to call my dad to "confess" that I had hated him for so long. I expected him to be offended, but he was forgiving. He told me we would go out to dinner, and talk. He said, "We'll laugh and cry." I asked if we could go to therapy, together, and he agreed. He even paid for it.
In counseling, most of my sessions were one on one. Then, we would have some with my father. After, we would go to dinner. At dinner, I would talk with him about the problems I had with cruel friends, like most teens; however, didn't know how to handle it. He would try to change the subject, and if I pushed him to talk about what was going on in my life, he would end the dinner, and return to his other family. He made me feel worse than I already did.
In high school, I wrote a sci-fi series of short stories, and gave them to my dad to read and edit. He never did. You would think we would bond over something like that, but he never embraced the opportunity. Sometimes, at family parties in the summer, I would show him something I wrote for school, during the year, and he would be impressed. He would note being impressed by the writing in the emails I would send him, too. You may think it odd he hadn't seen my school work shortly after I wrote it, considering he didn't live far, but being involved in my education was never one of his top priorities.
When I was seventeen, I wanted to take classes to be certified second level Reiki. My mom wouldn't be able to afford it, this time, so I asked my dad. He refused. I had asked him a few times, in different ways, since it had become very important to me and I had already helped some people as a first level. So, when one of our sessions together came up and we were asked to bring up a situation in which we disagreed, I mentioned the Reiki lessons. At that moment, my dad said, "Well, I was going to wait until dinner," and pulled a pre-written check from his pocket.
It was at that moment, I realized that what my mom had told me about my dad was entirely true. He was manipulative instead of nurturing. Seeing the therapist he was paying be so thrilled, this was all a scheme to get the therapist to be on his side. My doubts were over.
Have you gone to college?
During my senior year of high school, one of my step-sisters had married one of her old boyfriends, and he passed the bar. At the last party I attended at my dad's house, my step-sister's husband asked me about college. I told him my plan with enthusiasm, and he responded with support.
One afternoon, the phone rang. I saw the name on the caller-ID, and knew it was familiar, but I couldn't place it. When I answered, it was my step-sister's husband. He wanted to talk with my mom about something. How odd. I assumed he needed her help because of the art business she used to run on the side, and told him she had to stop doing that. He told me, "No, it isn't about that. Just have her call me, please."
Later on, my mom informed me that dad had a lawyer to fight helping to pay for my college. Did I mention I was an English major? It's not like my dad, as an English teacher, would support something like that. Anyway, as someone about to start college, this was additional anxiety. I couldn't wait to get to college, and now my dad was trying to make sure it didn't happen.
Unlike during the divorce, the judge was on my mom's side. When presented with cause not to have to help pay for my college education, the judge found nothing but flaws. One main excuse was that our relationship wasn't a positive one. The judge's response was, "Have you tried picking up the phone?" When presented with the argument that somehow I would be able to pay for college on my own, the judge's response was, "In this day, with how expensive it is, parents should pay for their children's college. I'm paying for mine."
Finally, I graduated by the time I turned 25, which was another part of the arrangement—just until I turned 25.
Have you ever known more about someone than their spouse?
Another Broken Family
My dad has always been "the bad guy" in my life; so, it was a relief to graduate. There is no more that I need from him. Meanwhile, I never had a barrier in the relationship with my closest step-sister; however, her husband being my dad's lawyer created one, immediately. How would I visit my dad or my step-sister, knowing what was going on?
I stopped visiting. I sent my brother with baby gifts for her when she was pregnant and then when the baby came. I wanted to tell her what was really going on, since I knew the two men had cooked up some fictional explanation for why they were working together, and that it wasn't to fight my ability to have an education, but how would I not get in trouble? Did I mention my step-sister is an educator, too? There is no way she would be okay with what they did, and that is why she probably doesn't know the truth. So, my dad not only broke up our family, but he broke up the relationship I had with my step-family.
In addition, the reality that I probably know more about my step-sister's husband than she does, only reinforces my previous belief that legal marriage is just not a good idea. If she is aware of what he does, maybe she tries to pretend he isn't really like that since trying to divorce a lawyer can lead to major problems, or maybe he has kept her in the dark, so she can continue to believe he really is a fine father and husband. Either way, the reality of legal marriage has yet to prove to me to be 1. useful and 2. safe, and my step-family continues to worship my dad.
Has this article changed your views on marriage?
Of course, I don't believe every marriage will end in domestic violence, but considering the things one can get away with should frighten people. That is why I am not a supporter of marriage in general. Celebrate your love with a wedding, if you please. I will support it. Tie yourself, legally, to someone who can take your money and/or threaten your life, and get away with it? I won't.
Some people get married for the sake of tax breaks, but it can be made up for in a divorce. So, is it worth it? I don't think so.
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