"A woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself."
My mom had a tough life growing up. To escape her terrible mother, she married at 16. They divorced a few short years later, and she found my dad. It wasn't long after they met that she found out she was pregnant with me but unfortunately my dad's plans didn't include settling down with his family. My mom suffered through things because she wanted me to have 2 parents, but when I turned 4 she realized it wasn't healthy for either of us to be around him. We packed up and went searching for a new life. She had a friend named Jeff*, who offered to let us live with him.
It didn't take long for them to start fighting. He was unemployed and had a nasty drug problem, so my mom worked long hours to support us all. The fights got worse and turned violent. My mom had no idea I was peeking around the corner late at night and the images of her crumpled on the floor are etched into my mind. I'll never forget the day she was standing in the kitchen when I noticed her shirt was torn and she was crying. Tears welled in my eyes as I asked my mommy if she was okay. I knew the answer but she just smiled and offered to make me some lunch before she got ready for work. I was so upset that I couldn't eat and Jeff was angry that I wasn't finishing my food. By this time my mom had already left for work, and he hit me. I was stunned. My own mother had never even hit me before! Of course he threatened to make it worse if I ever told my mom.
The beatings got worse for my mom and I. He started leaving obvious marks. I bathed myself since she worked afternoons and nights so she didn't have a chance to see the damage Jeff was causing. Finally one night she had some time off and he had gone for a drug run. We spent some girl time together, and she wanted to give me my bath. That was when she noticed the bruises on me. She truly had no idea, and I could see the mixture of anger and sadness in her eyes. The very next day while he was gone the cops showed up at the door to interview us both. I had to explain everything to the cop who was recording the conversation. I remember worrying that Jeff would return and hurt us again. My mom assured me it would never happen again. We packed our things the same day and later found out that he was arrested.
I'll never understand what drives someone to hurt others like that. He took advantage of a vulnerable woman who just wanted her daughter to have a roof over her head. My mom loved me so much that she was willing to endure daily abuse just so I could be safe. It nearly killed her that her efforts to protect me actually put me in harm's way. I'm not angry or upset; I'm proud of my mom for being so brave. She's the strongest woman I know and I wouldn't change our story for the world. It does have a happy ending though, she met my step dad and they got married. He never made me feel as if I wasn't his real daughter, and it takes a real man to raise someone else's child. I'm grateful to my step dad for many things but the thing I appreciate the most is that he showed my mom love exists without pain.
If our story can help one person, it was worth it. If you're a man, woman, or child dealing with abuse get help now. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit www.thehotline.org
*His name has been changed to protect my mom and my identities.