Violence: It’s not all about guns and fists

27 Jun

I’ll ask for your forgiveness before I even write my thoughts, because I know I’m going to upset some readers. I hope some of you will understand that with this post I mean to express my feelings and my knowledge not in an attempt to hurt anyone, but to hopefully make you think, understand, and perhaps change a bit to make this world, our world, a better place for all of us to live.

I’ll start by saying that I’ve lived with violence since I was a small child. I knew my father and mother’s violence much more than I ever knew their love from as far back as my memories begin. I was not raised in a poor home, my parents were and are very middle-class. I was not raised by parents who were uneducated. They both attended and graduated from fine colleges and universities, my mother is a registered nurse certified in every type of hospital environment, from the ER to the OR, and worked as not only a floor nurse but also as a house supervisor for the majority of her career. She also has experience as a school nurse, home health nurse, and saw people living in abject poverty and sometimes visited homes where she required a police escort to see that those in need were taken to the hospital or given care within their homes. She took care of patients from all walks of life and all socioeconomic levels. She was an excellent nurse, right up until she retired.

My father also had the benefit of an excellent education, achieving not only a Bachelor of Science degree but a Master’s as well. He was a mere three courses shy of receiving his doctorate before my mother announced that he absolutely had to stop being a student and find a job that would support our family of four. He resented her for that every day and would  tell my brother and me that we were the cause of his inability to follow his dreams of going into research, and instead having to become a teacher. He taught high school chemistry, biology, and also taught science courses at the local community college until he retired. He was by all accounts an excellent instructor and his students not only respected him but many told me personally that he was their favorite teacher of all time, how he was such a great man and how lucky I was to be his daughter. It took everything I had in me not to sneer and tell them I would  trade places with them in an instant and then they could see just how ‘lucky’ I was. My father never wanted to have children, did not even like children, and he had no problem telling  the two of us those facts any time he got the chance. He resented us, he disliked us, and consequently never approved of anything we did no matter how successful we were at anything we tried to do. I think the only thing I ever did that made him even seem to show a bit of pride was when I played or sang music. Maybe that was due to the fact that he enjoyed music and was unable to do it himself. But nothing else I did was ever good enough, and nothing I do now is….

When I talk about violence, it is more than just the corporal punishment I received at the hands of both my parents. Sometimes, I think maybe I deserved some of it, other times I know I did not. I have, over the last 43 years of my life, tried to make excuses for the way I was treated. It is a means of comforting myself, to try to convince myself that I was not all bad but maybe they were trying in some horrible way to wrench what evil there was inside me out by any means possible. My rational mind tells me that there are no reasons to ever hit a child, no reasons to warrant hitting a child with belts, switches, or fists, but the rational mind is no comfort in the middle of the night when the nightmares keep you from sleep. There are only tears and sobs and a pillow to hide the sound from the husband you love and whom you want to protect from hearing about the painful past that will only upset him. I have learned to cry quietly for the most part, and it is because I love my husband fiercely that I try not to talk about the memories that haunt me still.

When my father’s father died, he went alone to the funeral home when he knew he would be alone with the corpse of the man who had abused him in one form or another all of his life. My grandfather was a cold-blooded man, who treated his children and his wife and his sister with cruelty that would not be believed if written in a book. To this day, my father and his brother and sister still bear the scars of my grandfather’s abuse. They are suspicious and jealous of one another. They do not have the love for one another that we are taught by our religious leaders and educators is right and good. It was systematically beaten out of them, they were the victims of lies and stories my grandfather told them throughout their childhoods and their adult lives that killed any sort of trust they might have otherwise had for one another. Abused siblings often cling to one another to survive, to save their souls from the pain of being unloved and unwanted. My grandfather saw to it that they never did that, he made sure that even after he died they would continue to hate one another. If there is truly a Hell, he is there.

My brother and I are the same, we don’t even speak to one another. I have tried time after time to talk to him, to find some sort of common bond that would bring him into a healthy relationship with me, his only sibling. But I have failed, and I don’t know if I can ever change how he feels about me and about himself. He wants nothing to do with me, and to be totally honest he wants nothing to do with any of our family. My mother forces herself upon him and his family because of his two little girls, but he doesn’t like her to be in his home and treats her with disdain when she visits. He has nothing in common with my father, and wants none of his friends to even meet our father or mother. Since he lives a state away from them, it’s not very hard to keep our parents out of his life and the lives of his girls. Perhaps he is wise to do so, because I allowed my daughter to have them in her life and consequently she has heard how horrible a person I am so much that she and I have a very strained relationship. I’ve written extensively about my daughter and how difficult our relationship is, and how I feel I’ve failed as a mother. I believe that had I had a better relationship with my own parents, I would have been better equipped to raise a happy, healthy woman. But I did not, and I did the best I could with the tools I had. I love my daughter, but if I had it to do all over again I would take her far away from my parents and the poisonous relationship I have with them and then maybe she would have turned out differently.

Violence. The worst violence doesn’t come from a bullet shot from a gun, it comes from the words and actions of the people we are given to as infants and who are charged with bringing  us up to become healthy, secure members of this world. Telling a child that they are bad, that they are not wanted, that they are a burden and embarrassment, that even their parents don’t like them and only ‘love’ them out of reluctance and obligation, that is the worst kind of violence. That type of violence will bring a child to hate themselves and the world around them. That type of violence can make a child swallow a bottle of pills and pray for death, can make them slice open their arms and watch their blood run into the warm water of a bathtub and smile as they feel their life ebb away. That type of violence can make someone hate those who laugh and are loved, hate them enough to get a gun, load it with bullets, and carry it into a school, or business, or a crowd and open fire before turning it upon themselves. The violence we see and mourn when it’s reported on the news doesn’t start with the gun, it starts with the interior monologue that the child or adult hears after they’ve been told they are not good, they are not wanted, they are not valued, they are not loved. When a mother tells her daughter that she is ‘not the daughter I ever wanted’, or says ‘why can’t you look like (fill in any name), you’re so fat and sloppy’, or when she slaps her across the face in front of her friends and never apologizes and tells those watching that the daughter is worthless and ‘just a horrible person’, it leaves a scar too deep to ever cover or even truly heal.

The violence I write about is the kind of abuse that Social Services and Child Welfare doesn’t do anything about, especially when the kids are wearing the latest fashions, make decent grades, and the parents belong to all the right clubs and attend the right church. No one sees this violence because children who suffer through this don’t tell…they are too ashamed and believe that their parents are right. They suffer in silence until it erupts in self-mutilation, suicide, or sometimes in violence towards others before turning inward. I know this to be true because I suffered in silence until the first time I tried to take my own life. Then, thanks to therapists who helped me open up and talk about all the memories that were destroying me from the inside outward, I was able to begin healing. I’m not sure I’ll ever be truly recovered, I don’t know if it’s even possible to find peace from such things, but I’m trying. That is why I went back to school to study psychology and therapy, so while I learned to help others I might also help myself.

I have done my best to forgive my parents. I still, perhaps foolishly, try to gain their approval all the time.


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