Do you feel like a man?

I often found the same question would pop into my head after one of the normal daily beatings from my step dad. Do you feel more like a man when you beat helpless children? How could someone find it in them to beat a child repeatedly and torment them with nasty sayings like “Use your head for something other than a hat rack!”, “Stop playing the victim! You are always making yourself out to be a victim when you aren’t!” or “You’re nothing other than a bully! You’re going to spend your entire life locked up in jail you are such a terrible child!”. I heard these sayings daily, often times followed by the same question popping into my head, Does that make you feel like more of a man because you can torment a young girl?!

I often heard these saying when I had made a mistake, ya know something simple like, knocking over my glass of water at the dinner table. Normal mistakes all children make. Usually they were either preceded or followed up by a vicious hit to the back of the head or face. Followed by more tormenting telling me what a screw up I was or how I wouldn’t succeed at anything in my lifetime.  If I was lucky my mom wouldn’t be home. If she were and I started crying he would take me away from wherever my mom was in the house, throw me into a couch or hold me against a wall with his hand covering my mouth and nose. I still remember the sheer terror running through my mind and I tried so hard to gasp for air, fighting against him as hard as I could. Nothing would get him to let up. His sweaty tense anger filled face would be right in my face often times I could feel the spit flying out of his mouth as he told me “You better shut up or I’ll make you sorry!” “Stop crying you have no reason to cry!”. These words were filled with such anger and hate I soon began to hate myself.

When I was in elementary school his mother’s house was a safe place, as with my mom’s parent’s house. I loved going there. He couldn’t beat me or yell at me. I was able to be a child at these places without the fear of him watching me waiting for the perfect time to beat me. One time at his mom’s house my younger brother had taken his shoes off and put them into a closet in one of the rooms my step dad would often use while we were there. The time had come to gather our shoes and coats and get ready to head home. My brother couldn’t find his shoes. My step dad’s face instantly turned red. I watched the red travel from his clenched jaw to the top of his flat top hair cut as he stared me down. I knew I was going to take the blame for this and I better help him find his shoes. We all began looking. What really was probably only half an hour seemed like hours. I had been looking in my step dad’s room and he followed me in there. Again he grabbed my arm, pulled me in so close I could feel the droplets of spit hitting my face as he talked through his clenched jaw telling me what a terrible sister I was and that I better just tell him where the shoes were. But I didn’t know where they were as I had not been the one to put them away. He didn’t care it was my fault, everything was always my fault. Finally, I can’t remember who, the shoes were found in the closet and man I was in for it because I had hid the shoes from my brother. He grabbed my arm and as hard as he could he through me into a corner. He then sat down in his office chair and found the biggest books he could find. I remember him telling me to put my hands above my head, I did what I was told. Then I felt the weight of 3 books, each about the size of an average dictionary, fall into my hands. There he was in my face with his finger pointing at me telling me so keep those books above my head until he said so. There I sat, arms shaking, and tears running down my face. I didn’t dare move or say a word. Time seemed to stand still, finally he got in my face again. He told me what a terrible sister I was and asked me if I would ever hide my brothers shoes again, to which I replied by shaking my head no trying to keep myself from crying. Through his clenched jaw he said “Good, now get your shoes and coat on NOW!”. Little did I know I would have this night thrown in my face every time I was in trouble, like people in the olden days getting stoned to death.

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When I think back on what a sick man my step dad was the same question still taunts me. Did that make him feel more manly? He couldn’t boss my mom around and rule her so he had to have complete control over something I guess. As I look back that seems to be the only explanation I have for his despicable actions. My mom was strong willed and she had been controlled by my father so was determined not to be controlled by another man again, so he chose to prey on us kids.

I still wonder what his response would be if I asked him if he felt more like a man by beating children. Maybe someday after I have worked on myself and I no longer fear him I will be able to have a civil conversation with him about what he did to us and why he did what he did. For now I will continue to write my memories here in hopes that it will help my healing and might catch the eye of someone else needing to hear they are not alone.

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The Fights

Domestic violence can be defined as “Domestic violence and emotional abuse are behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control the other. Partners may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay, or lesbian; living together, separated or dating.3” Did you know ”

  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.1
  • Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner.2
  • Almost half of female (46.7%) and male (44.9%) victims of rape in the United States were raped by an acquaintance. Of these, 45.4% of female rape victims and 29% of male rape victims were raped by an intimate partner.11
  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.1
  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.1

These statistics are alarming, and domestic abuse is not only a problem here in the US but across the world! Domestic abuse hurts more than just the adults involved, it also hurts the children. In fact, “1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.5” I as well as my siblings are part of these statistics.

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Luke, my father, had a few addictions to say the least. In fact he may still to this day suffer from addictions. I wouldn’t know much about his life as he doesn’t try to keep in contact with me anymore. Growing up he would drink quite heavily as well as he used meth and possibly other drugs I am unaware of. My mom also drank but I don’t remember her drinking being as bad. Usually their drinking or my dads drug abuse would lead to him coming home and fighting with my mom. These fights almost always ended up in my mom getting physically and emotionally abused.

Emily, bless her heart, practically raised Carl and I. When these fights would break out she would grab Carl and I and hide us in either my parent’s room or another room far away. We would lock the door and hide sometimes in a closet. Emily would wrap her arms around us. I can still picture her blonde hair, that looked like my mom had placed a bowl on her head and cut around it, her arm outstretched to me as her mouth would move saying “Come on! We need to go hide!” but in my head no words were actually coming out of her mouth. I was frozen. She would grab my arm and pull me to wherever we were hiding this time and we would wait, shaking in fear all huddled close together, we would wait. We would sit there and watch through the cracks in the doors we were hiding behind, or just listen to the yelling and screaming and bottles breaking against the walls of our run down old single-wide trailer. Emily was always so strong. She was only a mere girl herself but she was always watching out for Carl and I, our safety she put before her own, always.

I remember one fight in particular when I was a young girl sometimes it plays over and over in my head like a scratched DVD. There was a breakfast bar in our tiny kitchen with bar stools on the other side where you could sit and eat. The kitchen was always a mess, mail in mounds around the counters, dirty dishes in the sink, and garbage scattered about the counters. There I was, sitting at the breakfast bar, watching. I cannot remember the words that were being said back and forth out of hatred between my mom and dad, it all seemed surreal. Their mouths moving and nothing coming out. Fists waiving in the air with fingers pointing at each other as their mouths continue to move. CRASH a bottle, holding some sort of alcohol, crashes on the wall above my mom’s head in slow motion I watch as the glass and liquid fall to the ground as my mom is standing back up from taking cover. Then BAM a wooden chair goes next. All the pieces flying about still in slow motion around the room. I sit and watch, scared but numb, as this has happened so many times before. Then I am pulled back into reality by a hand grabbing my arm pulling me and my dad saying “I’m taking her with me!” As I turn my head I see my mom running to my other side and grabbing that arm. I feel like a rope being pulled by two angry dogs fighting over who will get the toy in the end. My mom screams “You can’t have her!” Again their mouths start moving without any words coming out as I am being tugged between the two of them. Finally they move somewhere else and I see my saving grace, there she was, Emily sneaking around the corner of the narrow dark hallway into the kitchen to take me to safety. She pulls me into the room her and I shared and she closes the door. It’s as if we were invisible running across the small entertainment room and sneaking into our room. That’s where my memory ends, Emily and I scared holding each other leaning against the door crying, like we had done so many times before.

Many years later I would hear of more horrifying details of the violence that would take place in our home. One time I have vague memories of this, Emily had taken Carl and I into the master bedroom to hide and my mom was backed against the outside of the door yelling “Leave them alone, Don’t hurt them”. My father just a few feet from her was storming down the hallway and pushing her against the door behind which 3 scared little children were hiding. She then grabbed a screw driver off the floor and attempted to stab him, it only injured him in the shoulder. I later heard my mom would have gone to jail numerous times over fights like this one, for defending us kids and herself. Emily just recently told me about other fights, how he would throw my mom to the ground and rape her in front of me, as I stood there frozen watching these unspeakable things happened in front of my little innocent eyes.

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I have this other memory, my father was laying on a couch or bench of some sort in front of a window. His arm had been bandaged as if it were broken. He was passed out, I was walking across the living room towards him and all I could see was his dark shadow in the night and the all too familiar red and blue flashing lights coming in through the windows. Again I froze, they were trying to arrest him but he became combative. There were at least two officers who had to remove him from our home, all the while I stood there frozen watching everyone’s mouths moving with no sounds coming out.

These are real events that happen. They happen right here in our country, in our states, in our towns. Innocent little children are watching these horrible things happen to their parents and they are forced to watch it over and over again as I and my siblings had to do. Domestic violence is nothing to mess around with. It hurts everyone involved. If you or someone you know is being abused please call the domestic abuse hotline. You are not alone and we can help you!

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Daddy’s Girl

 

Every little girl loves their daddy right? Nothing was different with me. I was his little mini-me, a spitting image of him! I loved everything about him. He was my true hero. Although I was young I still vividly remember some times with him. I remember he gave me my first dog, at least the first that I can remember. He loved me oh so much. I was his pride and joy. I could do no wrong in his eyes, as his little girl. My dream of having my own horse, he said he would make it come true. I believed everything he told me and in my eyes he was perfect. Until he wasn’t.

My father’s name was Lucas, but he went by Luke. He was a bigger guy (I always saw him as the strongest man on Earth), with a short prickly beard covering his face. He had the best hugs. I loved curling up into his big arms and laying across his lap as he held me close. California is where he was born and raised by my grandparents, Bernadette (she went by Bernie) and Clarence as well as my uncle Earl. I was the apple of Bernie’s eye. As for Clarence I had always felt a strong connection to him, even though after a while I didn’t get to see them much, I still felt connected to my grandfather and my uncle Earl. I loved them all dearly, and through a little girl’s eyes they couldn’t do anything wrong or bad.

Luke married my mom (Madison but had a nickname Maddy) before I was born, but after my older sister (who was not my father’s daughter) Emily. I was born in November 1992. Emily was about 3 and a half when I was born. My father had always told me how he dreamed of holding me for the first time before he had even met my mother. He was thrilled I was finally here. Daddy’s little girl was finally wrapped up in his big, strong, and warm arms.

A short couple years after I was born came my little brother Carl. We were a little over two years apart. I don’t have many memories of my father and my brother. He was only 6 months old when my father left the marriage and our home. I always felt bad for my brother. Knowing he had this father out there that he didn’t even know. I remember we would take turns with our father and our mother. Our dad would pick us up from daycare and we would spend our few days with him then we would get returned to our mom’s house. There we sat, my little brother and I, on the cold cement stairs outside our daycare. We were the last kids there, the only kids who’s parent didn’t show up to get us. Our mom pulled up in her little car and slammed on the breaks. She wrapped us in a hug and we got into the car. If only I had known the last time I saw him would be the last time for years to come.

I hold tight to the few pictures I have of my father. One of my favorites is me as a little month old baby. I had dark brown hair and I was snuggled up in a blue sleeper curled up in my father’s arms. There he sat with the biggest smile from ear to ear as he showed off his new little one by the Christmas tree which was lit up to the side of the couch where he sat. This picture I have used to assure myself that he really did love me. He didn’t purposely hurt me by leaving, he had his good reason’s right?

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The Start of My Dream Come True

We have all believed in love at first sight right? I was no exception. Although my thought of love at first sight was a little different. I was 18 and I was ready to take on the world. I wanted a baby! What better way to get that than find a slightly older decent looking guy to date and talk into it as well? Seemed like a good idea. I could get what I wanted and live with this man forever and ever happily ever after. Although we all know that is not how it usually works out for young mothers.

He was shorter, but not too short. Still a little taller than myself at 5’4. Not too thin and not too large, but big enough I wouldn’t be self-conscious of my own self (because I was sooooo fat!). He had a nice smile, dark brown curly hair as well as a full facial beard which was also dark brown. I got pulled to his work area which was another home across town. I immediately thought he was cute and I might have a chance with this guy! Really all I wanted was to do the deed and with any luck end up pregnant.

You see as the years went by I learned to lean on other guys for “love”. I became obsessed with trying to make guys like me. I didn’t have any standards. I just wanted to be loved. At a young age I learned pretty quickly that all I had to do to get a guy to like me was to get physical with them (have sex). The first time I had sex I was 13 and in middle school. I really cared about this guy and he had done it before so I felt it would be right to do it with him as well. We were the same age but he was known as one of the “bad” kids in school. He smoked cigarettes and got in trouble a lot but I ended up really liking him. Needless to say our relationship didn’t last too long. After that I started having sex with any guy I was remotely interested in. They liked me more if I had sex with them, or so I thought.

After I met Jimmy I began talking to him pretty regularly. We began casually dating and decided we were not going to have sex for a long time before actually getting to know one another. I learned more about Jimmy and that he still lived at home with his parents although he was 22. Two weeks had passed and we decided we wanted to start having sex. After a couple weeks of having sex and lots of ups and down in our perfect new relationship, we talked about trying to have a baby together. Prom was coming up at school and I convinced Jimmy we should go. I borrowed a dress from my sister’s friend and my grandma and mom paid for me to get my hair done at a salon. After all this was the first dance I had ever had a date to. My mom did my makeup and my sister and grandma helped. We took lots of pictures at home and my grandma gave me money to order pictures from the photographer at the dance. We went to prom but decided after a little while we were too “bored” to stay there. We went and saw his mom at work so she could see me in my dress then we went back to my house and I changed out of my dress. We then went to his house and of course had our little fun there. The process of trying for a baby had started and two weeks after that I was finding out I was PREGNANT! I was scared but at the same time so excited. My dream was coming true! Jimmy was happy too and we were so excited to spend the rest of our lives together raising our little baby as a big happy family, or so I thought. The day after taking my pregnancy test it was Easter. We went to Jimmy’s grandma’s house first and visited with his family there then decided we needed to go see my family. On the way Jimmy had asked if we could swing by his house so he could change his shirt. My hormones being erratic at this point, I snapped and told him no that was completely out of the way and we needed to get there! The entire car ride we fought. I screamed at him, just a few minutes away from my grandparent’s house, “Just leave me alone and don’t ever talk to me again!” To which he hastily replied “Did you forget what is growing inside you?!”. At this point I was bawling and he asked for me to drop him off down the road at a nearby campground. I Sat in my car crying and he walked around and cooled off. We both calmed down, I wiped away my tears, he put on a happy face and we walked into my grandparent’s house as happy as could be, after all we were going to be a happy little family…Right?

I started going to ultrasounds pretty frequently at a clinic in my town that offered them for free. They helped me keep my mind at ease that I wasn’t going to lose this baby to miscarriage. Jimmy told his mom and she was anything but happy. He tried to explain to her that we had used protection and that it was an accident. A couple weeks went by and I knew I had to tell my mom. Due to some previous health conditions I needed to get into a Dr. ASAP. Initially I called my grandma crying because Jimmy and I (in our perfect new little family) were already fighting. I tried to tell her and before I could get it out she said “You’re going to have a little one aren’t you?”. I cried even harder shaking my head yes even though nothing more then a moan came out of my mouth in response to her question. She talked to me for a little while and we tried to figure out a way to tell my mom. We thought about having her tell her but decided that wasn’t the best idea. She told me she loved me and she supported whatever decision I made and we hung up the phone. I called Jimmy and we talked and decided he needed to come with me to tell my mom.

A few days after talking to my grandma Jimmy and I decided to go tell my mom and her boyfriend. We went to my house and my mom had been working in her office and Steve was on the couch watching TV. I was the first to walk through the door. I was shaking and asked Steve if my mom was home. With a puzzled look on his face he said “Yeah? She’s in her office.” I shakily walked down the few feet in the hallway to her office door. I was terrified of what was about to happen. Lifting my shaking hand I knocked on her office door. I heard a creek as she got up off her office chair and walked toward the door. The door swung open. The only words I could get out were “Jimmy and I need to talk to you” and I turned around and walked back into the living room and sat down on the love seat next to Jimmy. Confused my mom slowly walked out of her office and with a puzzled look on her face she sat down next to Steve. “You’re pregnant!” Steve shouted with a big grin on his face. You see this had been his joke for a few weeks every time I said guess what he would say “You’re pregnant!”. This time my response took him off guard. “Yes I am.” “Nooo you’re not pregnant! I was just kidding. What do you need to tell us?” “I’m pregnant”. Jimmy had been watching the TV and not even looking at the two of them as I spoke. My mom sat there with a surprised and disappointed look on her face. Steve continued to argue with me about me being pregnant. After a few seconds, what seemed like eternity, my mom opened her mouth and said “Well what’s your plan? What are you guys going to do? Where are you going to live? How are you going to afford this baby?” “We will be keeping the baby. Jimmy’s mom offered for us to live there after graduation until we can save up for our own place. I have looked into Medicaid and I plan on applying.” Steve piped in and with a stern look on his face he asked Jimmy “Are you actually going to stick around and help her with this baby?” Jimmy’s voiced cracked as he replied “Yes I am going to be there for my child”. There was an awkward silence in the room. I looked at my phone and stood up. I stated I had to go get to work. Jimmy and I then left and he drove me to my car so I could go to work. During that car ride we didn’t say much other than “Well that went better than I had thought”.

And this was just the beginning of my perfect little family…

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When I was 18 and knew everything

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Ah yes, when I was 18. I turned 18 in November of 2011. That’s when I decided “I was an adult” and “I knew what I was doing!”. In fact just two days after turning 18 I decided to go buy a car on my own. Not just a car parked in a parking lot with the usual “for sale” sign in all the windows, but a car from a dealership. This is where I started making some poor choices. I found a car I could afford, cause ya know I was working two jobs and attending my senior year of high school, I had it all figured out. So I thought. The car was a 2005 Silver Dodge Neon. No it wasn’t the most expensive car out there but at 18 and getting a loan for $9,000 I thought I had it made in the shade. This car was PERFECT.

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Heading to one of my two jobs I stopped at a gas station just a few blocks from where I was working to get something for dinner. This was right after leaving the dealership. I turned off the car, strolled inside, bought a sandwich and some chips, and headed back out to my beautiful new car. I plop into the driver’s seat and grasp my keys. I put the key in the ignition, my anticipation was through the roof, I couldn’t wait to pull up to work as the youngest worker with a brand new car! I turned the key. Nothing. I mean nothing happened. The brand new car I was so sure was perfect didn’t start. So I did what any reasonable 18 year old would do I called the dealership and began to vocally express my frustrations. I was beyond frustrated! I mean I had been taking not just Auto I in school but I was in Auto II this year and for sure I knew everything! This car had NOTHING wrong with it when I looked at the dealership! The dealership ended up towing the car back to their shop and checking it over. It started right up for them and over the next few weeks the car continued to, when it felt like it, not start. This usually happened when I was leaving school and heading to work. Each time the dealership towed it and checked it over nothing was wrong.

After a few weeks of headache my mom’s boyfriend at the time (lets call him Steve) had sent a very opinionated email to the corporate office of the dealership. After weeks of fighting with them and arguing about getting a rental car from them, corporate helped them adjust their attitudes. (Remember I was 18 I was always right) They ended up loaning me a car that I ended up liking and in the end, bought for over $3,000 below the book value. I had made a steal! I really did know everything. This is just one of the first know it all moments I had shortly after turning 18.

Fast forward about a month. A guy at work, more than a few years older than I, had been flirting with me. Keep in mind he was also dating a gal I worked with. I was flattered, after all I had always been told how ugly, fa,t and stupid I was. My mind started thinking, “She won’t find out if we do anything!” All I have to do is keep my mouth shut. One thing led to another and needless to say he ended up cheating on his girlfriend at the time (more than once). We had even kissed at work one time. Myself being 18 and knowing everything I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. After a few short hours everyone found out and his girlfriend confronted me at work. Although everything was only verbal it was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. My bosses ended up finding out and I ended up being put on a probationary period. I started floating around to different sites and met another guy. I of course fell for him right away. I gave him my number and one thing led to another we began dating. A few weeks later my genius self again being 18 and a know it all, started talking to other staff about this guy’s girlfriend and using some colorful language at work. My career at this particular company had come to an end. Thankfully I had another job to fall back on for my new car payment. My new relationship continued on and that is the beginning of yet another story of how I was 18 and knew everything. That story however is the beginning to the story of the rest of my life.

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The Journey Begins

I am a young woman. I am a mother. I am a wife. I am who I am because I have learned to be strong. Montana is where I am from and where I have lived my life. The Big Sky State. This wonderful, big, beautiful state has been my home for the past 24 years. Twenty four years is not that long but I am experienced beyond those twenty four years. I have experienced blessings some people will never get the chance to experience. I have experienced things as a child I would love to believe doesn’t happen to children. That it only happened to me. I am lucky. I met my other half and was lucky enough to marry him. I am blessed with two wonderful little boys. One of which I had before I had met my husband. I am blessed with a husband who loves my first son as his own. I am blessed with a husband who works hard long hours away from his family for weeks at a time so we can have and give our children what we didn’t have throughout our childhood. I have a blessed, beautiful life and this is just the beginning of my story.

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This blog is where I will share my experiences. Some beautiful and exciting, others hard and trying. I am new to this whole “blogging” scene but feel I can get the hang of it and maybe continue to do this for a while. Please be easy on me. I have been out of the classroom too long and I am sure I will be making plenty of grammar and punctuation mistakes. I am starting this site in hopes of reaching others and inspiring others. I have not always been happy and who am I kidding I still have my days where I am not happy. But I, as well as others, need to learn to be happy with the way things are. Stop wishing we had bigger and better things. Appreciate the little things in life. The roof over our heads, the sound of little footsteps on the hardwood floors at 6:30am on a Saturday, the sound of babbling coming through the baby monitor, the warmth of the person you love lying next to you in bed. I feel these are only some of the little things in life I hope to appreciate more through sharing my experiences with you all.

My only hope for this blog is to inspire others. Inspire people to appreciate the little things in life. To reach out to those in need. Inspire other young adults or teenagers going through similar experiences. Inspire and open the eyes of those working in child welfare. I hope to have people share and follow my story. Use it to better themselves or to help someone else work through their problems. I hope my story can reach others in various ways that matter the most to them. Impact. I really just want to make an impact on people’s lives. Please follow me through my journey. Though it will not always be in chronological order, they will all tell a part of my story and help shape me and who I am today. My story isn’t the prettiest but man does it have some spectacular moments I will cherish forever. I am a mother, I am a wife, and I am strong.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton