Growing up, I have heard people say you have choices. You can choose to continue your education, you can choose what job or career you want. You can choose to get married. You can choose to have children. You can choose to lie, steal, cheat, hurt people. You can choose left or right. You can choose to do right or choose to do wrong. You have choices.
But what if you feel like you don’t have a choice? What if you aren’t allowed to make choices?
I grew up in a home far, far away. In this home was my mother, her new husband and a baby on the way. My three older siblings were sent away as our mothers’ new husband made her choose between him and her children. Her children lost. She made her choice.
I stayed behind as I was the youngest. I was six when this took place. I didn’t have a choice to live with my dad. I didn’t have a choice but to call this new man anything but dad, even though I had a dad. If I didn’t call him dad, I was smacked. I’m not talking about a smack on the bottom. I’m talking about being yanked by my arm, hand print across my face, smacked! If I called him “dad” all was fine. It was like walking on egg shells, you never knew which one would creak open and the beatings begin. Choices.
My sister was born one month after my seventh birthday. I took care of her every morning before school, every day after school, and every weekend. The times I didn’t take care of her was when we had company or we were in public. Mother was either looking for praise or the best mother of the year award. Her choice.
Shortly after my sister was born, my”dad”, told me that no one would understand the love that we share. Like most children, I wanted love and affection, so I chose to accept his love.
When I turned 11, I started my womanly monthlies. “Dad”told me he no longer loved me. Little did I know it was due to him not wanting to get me pregnant.
At the tender age of 12, I went looking for “love and affection”. I found it in the arms of men 17 and older.
When I became an adult, it was so engrained in me that sex was the only way to be loved that I married the first man who verbally told me that he loved me. When I told him what happened to me as a child, he chose to use it against me and told me that it was my fault. I was a whore, a tramp. But that I was lucky that he loved me enough to overlook my faults. I chose to stay worth him. Afterall, he verbally told me he loved me. Choices.
I had three children by him and he chose to use me as his punching bag. He said if I hadn’t made him mad, he wouldn’t have hit me. Maybe he was right. I chose to stay.
I gained weight during our marriage as he’d hit me then make it up by buying me chocolate. Then he’d tell me I was a fat cow. He told me that no one would love a fat cow like me. I’m lucky that he loved me, fatness and all. I chose to continue eating chocolate. I choose to continue to gain weight. Choices.
Thirteen years of marriage I decided to leave him. Why? I came home from work one day and he had our eight year old son by the throat, off the ground, threatening to kill him. I told him he’d never hurt my children again! I chose to leave.
Shortly after leaving him I divorced him. I knew I needed help, but I couldn’t afford a counselor. I went to the local Christian book store and bought books on what to expect before marriage, after marriage, and how to raise children as a single parent. It opened my eyes to the abuse I was subjecting not only my children to but myself as well. I chose to raise my children free from the abuse I now see it for what it is. I chose to change.
I refuse to let the abuse alter who I am or to use it as am excuse for me to make horrible choices. I chose not to abuse my children.
I’m sharing my story in hopes that it may help others, encourage others to choose a different path than the one they are on. I’m hoping my story will open eyes that may once have been blind, open ears to hearing a voice where once there was none now shouting at the rooftops that there is help out there, if they choose. I’m hoping my story will show that there is help available, that they aren’t alone, if they choose.
As children we may not have choices, but as adults we do.
What will you choose today? Will you stay blind to the domestic violence around you? Will you open your eyes, your heart to those that may not know they have choices? What will you do if a neighbor, friend, or family member confides their abuse to you? What will your choice be?