Save Me From This Hell

National Teen Dating Violence Helpline: www.LoveIsRespect.org 1-866-331-9474

National Domestic Violence Hotline: www.ncadv.org 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Domestic Violence Safety/Escape Checksheet from the Pixel Project, click here

Above is the information that I feel very strongly should have accompanied Eminem/Rihanna video for “Love The Way You Lie”. Video is below. Just one sentence. Just one phone number.

But it didn’t.

Tomorrow you’ll hear my voice about this.

But for today, please listen to the voice of my guest poster, Melissa D:

Watching the video with Rihanna and Eminem felt somewhat “normal” to me; I wish I could say I was horrified or that it was appalling, but sadly it wasn’t. I grew up in a home like that. When I first married my husband I helped create a home like that, because it took me a long time to realize I needed to get some direction on how to end the cycle and change my way of thinking. This is a very real experience for many couples, unfortunately. When you grow up in a home full of domestic violence, you learn to believe that it is love. You learn if someone loves you they hit you or that if they love you they are so full of passion that they can’t take it, they explode.

I think while this video shows a very real depiction of what happens it also needs to be used as a tool to start a discussion about what can be done to end the cycle. Some ask, “Why would a women stay in this situation?” or “Why would a women initiate the violence?” Women stay for a variety of reasons and they initiate it for a variety of reasons; I know for myself I stayed in many types of abusive relationships because of the domestic violence I grew up with, my dad was never punished for it and no one ever saved me from it, so it seemed acceptable.

Young girls are often very insecure, for a multitude of reasons: home life, media, school, you name it, and there are so many ways that women are left feeling inferior. All of this insecurity can be used against them when faced with an abuser. Even if you haven’t grown up in an abusive home you maybe so insecure, much like how my mother ended up in an abusive relationship with my father, that you tolerate the abuse. You think you deserve it or you can stop it. This is one of the many reasons it is SO important to teach our girls to respect themselves and to realize their own self worth; that they can be so much more than someone’s target.

I have found that woman that initiate domestic violence or participate in it are often from abusive homes themselves or have been in a cycle of abusive relationships. They initiate it because it feels like love to them; it’s giving and receiving love. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it can also be very real. In some strange way, when you grow up with domestic abuse you can become hardwired to believe that it’s passion. It feels safe when they hit you; it’s like an old familiar teddy bear, in a way. Much like how Rihanna referenced “I like the way it hurts.” I know that may seem crazy, but in some strange way it can be true.

I hope that the purpose of this video was to start conversations much like the one’s we’ve had on Pigtail Pals’ facebook page, about what we can to do to end the cycle. While it is “entertainment” it is an important tool to teach our children that violence in any form is never okay. We need all of our children, girls and boys, to learn to stand up for themselves without violence. End the Cycle.

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Melissa D’s story of the life long cycle of Domestic Abuse, and of her survival:

The abuse in my family started long before I was born; my dad grew up with two alcoholic parents and my mom grew up with a single mother and a semi uninvolved father. My dad started abusing my mom very quickly into their relationship; you would think she would leave right? Unfortunately not, she was so insecure that I think she actually believed she could make it stop, that she deserved it, and that he must really love her if he’s so suspicious. They married and the abuse continued, however my dad did quit drinking and has been sober for many years. I remember very little from before I was five years old as you might expect, but I remember everything after that very well. My sister was born that year and that’s when I really remember the abuse amping up. I never saw my dad hit my mom and I’m fairly certain it wasn’t going on during that time. My dad was a very intelligent man with very little ambition to do great things, he believed things were owed to him, not that he had to work for them; this made it very difficult for my mother as she always had to try and keep a steady income as he could never hold down a job. Plus, I think working was an easy escape for my mom; sadly this left him with us girls most of the time. I am the oldest; I have a middle sister as I said five years younger and a baby sister eight years younger. My dad really tried to focus his abuse on me as my mom was always gone and my sisters were too little. As I look at it now I think I spent a lot of time antagonizing him just to protect them. The worst was bedtime, I was a bed-wetter as the result of his abuse, but then every night from the time I was five years old he would come in; in the middle of the night to see if I had wet the bed. If I had he would yank me out of bed and throw me on the floor and then when I would get up I would have to take my sheets off and put them in the washer and wait to switch them to the dryer, school night or not. You can imagine the impact this had on my school life. The abuse continued to escalate for years, I remember one of the most embarrassing times was when I had a birthday sleepover and I had all of my friends over and my dad got mad that I had taken chips out of the cabinet so he bit me on my thumb right through the skin and flesh, I was bleeding pretty profusely and my friends noticed and we spent the rest of the night huddled under blankets scared of my father. It’s funny really, that I would have had people over to the house at all, you would think I would have wanted to keep that a secret, but I think it was such a normal part of life that I didn’t consider until I was an adult how strange it really was, plus I am fairly certain I was hoping someone would save me from this hell. Unfortunately, we looked like a normal family from the outside, my parents were very active in the community and at school and we never showed any signs of abuse, or at least not one’s people noticed, I guess.

The abuse went on with daily stories much like the one’s above until around my 12th birthday. My mom took me to get a perm for my birthday, I was really excited. School had just started and I was in 5th grade with Mrs. McClure (only the best teacher in the whole school!!) One night I woke up in the basement where my sister and I had rooms and I heard a shrieking and sobbing sound coming from upstairs; so my middle sister and I went upstairs to see what was happening. My mom was crying and my dad hurried us back downstairs, my mom assured us everything was okay and my dad took us back downstairs. What I didn’t know until later is that while my dad took us downstairs my mom had called the police, my parents were fighting because my mom told him she was leaving him and he threatened to kill her and they must have started fighting. Shortly after my dad took us downstairs a police officer came down and asked us to come up, I was 12 and my younger sister was 7, it was scary but somewhat of a relief, FINALLY SOMEONE OTHER THAN US KNEW WHAT WAS GOING ON!!!

My Mom never talked to us about what happened. The police hauled my Dad off and we went back to bed, we had school the next day. My mom worked at the elementary school that we attended so my teacher already knew what had happened the night before, as soon as I came in she hugged me and the tears rolled down my cheeks, it was such a safe feeling, a little release from what had been a very heavy load.

My dad never came back into the house after that, the next weekend my mom, sisters and I loaded up his belongings into his van and drove it down the street for him to come and get. Several weeks later he moved into an apartment down the block from the duplex we were living in. My parents fought in court for two years, but our visits with dad started up shortly after he left. The abuse continued and no one did anything. I was not forced to go, but I couldn’t bare to let me sisters go alone, at least not until they were old enough to take care of themselves, so as they got older I saw him less and less although he would call and verbally abuse me several times a week.

When I was 14 is when I started looking for boys and choosing acceptable “mates” the boys I had my eyes on were nothing but trouble from the word go, we lived in a very dangerous neighborhood on Madison’s west side, so there were plenty of troubled boys to find everywhere I looked; gang bangers, pedophiles, and criminals galore. My mom was gone working most of the time and I was left alone with my sisters, but still struggling to become a woman. I put myself and my sisters in very dangerous situations. This is how I truly understand the meaning of “but for the grace of God go I” because it is a mystery how we didn’t end up dead or kidnapped or worse.

My first “boyfriend” was a 14 year old boy that was really putting the pressure on me to have sex. He wasn’t the first boy to ask but he was my first boyfriend, so it was a much more intense pressure. Thankfully I had the good sense to wait, but it wasn’t easy. Our relationship was intense, I ran away from home to be with him. He was “so nice to me” which at that time meant he wasn’t hitting me. He was a good guy and actually turned out to be a decent man. While I was busy with him, my mom was busy dating too many men to count each of them weirder than the last, mostly because she was so insecure that she was looking for the wrong type of relationship too. It’s strange really, because growing up I never thought of my mom as insecure, I used to think she was the strongest woman I knew.

As time went on my relationships with men got more complex, I wanted so badly to be with a man that “wouldn’t hit me” but I kept choosing one’s that would. I realize now that it was because I was truly more comfortable with hitting than with not. The last boyfriend I had before I met my husband was an amazing man and truly deserves a medal for putting up with me. He would have never hit me no matter how hard I pushed him. We dated for several years and he finally had enough of being pushed and left me two weeks before I graduated high school, it was devastating. I wish I had realized then the help I truly needed, but unfortunately no one that knew what had happened with my father or how I grew up guided me towards getting help. It wasn’t until after this amazing man broke up with me that I realized how much help I truly needed. Over the summer, I got help and learned that I need to start seeing the world differently, so that I can change my perception that abuse=love. In order to move on with my life, I moved to Chicago with a friend. This is where I met my husband. We started off so in love we met in November and by June we were engaged, I was 20 years old, by July I was pregnant and we were on the fast track to a family. He had grown up in a horribly abusive home full of drug use and domestic violence, thankfully not directed at him but between his parents; initiated by both his father and his mother. We truly believed that we could create a normal life together without abuse; it was a nice dream but an almost impossible one because we were both hardwired to believe that domestic violence is an acceptable way of life. By the time our son was six weeks old we were fighting weekly like prize fighting boxers. I initiated it, he initiated it; it just went on and on until one night at the bottom of the stairs I was screaming for help and a neighbor called the police. The police came and explained that they would take us both away if we were fighting especially with a newborn in the house. It was interesting really, that we were under so much stress that we just resorted to what we knew best, domestic violence. Along with the violence came passion, if we had fought we would “make up” like crazy, it was a horrible cycle but it felt like love. We realized after some time that this wasn’t working and had to make changes. We started making changes and realizing that we have to rewire ourselves so that we can rewire our future together. We still have some arguments, but we never put our hands on one another.  We also realize that we have to make a conscious effort to end our cycle of domestic violence and remove it from our family’s history so that our children don’t repeat the same behaviors.

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Thank you, Melissa D., for you voice and the strength to share your story. And thank you for being willing to teach.

National Teen Dating Violence Helpline: www.LoveIsRespect.org 1-866-331-9474

National Domestic Violence Hotline: www.ncadv.org 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Domestic Violence Safety/Escape Checksheet from the Pixel Project, click here



Comments

  1. Kristine H says:

    So well written. I am speechless. Melissa D. you are amazing and kudos to you for breaking the cycle.

  2. This hits so close to home and I’m proud of Melissa for sharing her painful and violent story. I know it well as I was also the little girl who walked in her father trying to kill her mother — and I was the little girl who allowed her father to shush her and send her back to bed.

    I am fortunate that my mother made the same decision as Melissa in that she chose to end the cycle of violence. Because of her choices after that night, no one will ever be allowed to abuse me or my children; however, my oldest sister (who witnessed more of the abuse than I did) continues to choose unhealthy, violent relationships.

    Hopefully this discussion and these resources will help more women and girls get the help (both physically and mentally) they need to get out of and stop choosing violent relationships. It breaks my heart to read a story so similar to mine, but Melissa’s story also reminds me that domestic abuse happens all the time.

    Let’s all speak up to put an end to it.

  3. Wow. This brings up a lot of emotions for me…I wondered if we had a few deeper things in common – which we do.

    You’re very brave for speaking up about this and for telling others: “You can end the cycle! It starts with YOU!”

    I also want to note that mothers who remain in this situation have usually lost their spirit to fight. You get to the point of saying: “This is all I know. I might as well stay because this is what I understand. It’s my own hell but I know how each day will go and I don’t have to wonder.” Leaving is so scary and so ‘unknown.’

    But I did it ;-) After 6 years I left, with my son, and lived in a hotel for 2 weeks, signed up for college, attended a wonderful church (where the pastor was an ex con – LOL – but he also understood the cycle of abuse!), entered for 2 scholarships and won them both, got a little apartment, worked for a Doctor and went to school at night, was nominated “Future Teacher of the Year” and more. Through prayer and faith – I came to the other side…much like you.

    Now married to a man who came from an abusive home – we work together daily to stop ourselves from being angry…from repeating that cycle. We both want our children to have more: self worth that is based on simply being who they are and not on anything they “do”, self esteem, faith/hope/joy/love.

    Everything in this world can be replaced – but not people. Not children. We must treasure them and treat them with the respect and worth they deserve; so they will know what REAL love looks like and have the tools to choose a loving partner wisely. A partner who also understands the value of human life and would never lay a hand on an irreplaceable child (or verbally attack them, either).

    Thanks for sharing your heart here, Melissa. I appreciate it and I greatly respect the fact that you CHOSE to end the cycle of abuse. Way to go, my friend.

    • Shara -
      Thank you so much for your comment and sharing your story of survival. I want to make one correction that the story you read here wasn’t my own, it was written by a friend whose name also happens to be Melissa. My guest writer went through more than I could ever imagine, so I just wanted to make sure it is clear that her story of survival is her own. And she told it beautifully.

  4. Wow. I commend you both! I am in awe of women who can share their stories so that others may be helped. I think only a victim can really truly understand how another victim feels, that make our voices the most important ones.
    {{Hugs}}

  5. Melissa D. says:

    Thank you so much for allowing me to share my story and for allowing it to be so well received. It means a great deal to me!

  6. Melissa D., I’m proud to be your friend. What courage and strength of character you have!

  7. George R. McCasland says:

    Annette’s Story: The Other Face Of Domestic Violence
    http://TheOtherFaceOfDomesticAbuse-Annettes-Story.org

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