*WARNING* this blog post is about childhood domestic violence and abuse.
Like most young children of the late 80’s early 90’s my brother and I had walkie talkies. My brother and I didn’t share bedrooms so our walkie talkies were a method of communication for once we were put to bed. Perhaps at our age it wasn’t uncommon for children to talk about their fear of monsters over their walkie talkies late at night but unlike most children our monster was a living being, our step father.
At a young age I had memorized the sound of every car in the neighborhood. I had learned to hear the cars from between 1-2 streets away depending on the sound of the engine. I remember listening to every passing car looking for the all too familiar sound of my step father’s Firebird.
I would talk to my brother as each car passed reassuring him that the passing car wasn’t our step father’s. Sometimes the humming of the engines passing by would put me to sleep and I wouldn’t get the warning as his Firebird pulled up to the house. Most nights I would stay awake until long after the Firebird got home.
Once he pulled into the driveway I would could easily asses his mood and listen for signs of frustration. Typically the first thing he would do when he came home would be to empty his change on to the dining room table. He would rustle around the house for awhile until he was ready to cook his dinner. As I heard him walking through the house I would go through my mental checklist; had I done the dishes, did I hang the towel back up, were my shoes by the door, etc. I would walk through every room of the house trying to get a mental image of how I left each room looking for things he might stumble onto that I had missed or forgotten.
The thing about this guy was that nothing was ever good enough. No amount of cleaning or maintenance could prevent him from escalating. To this day I don’t know what his triggers were, what set him off. Perhaps he only needed to allow enough time to pass for his drugs to kick in or perhaps our mistakes really did enrage him.
Once he determined that he was ready he would burst into our rooms and drag us out of bed. We would be beaten with a belt, bare skinned, often times not knowing what we had done. We would then be forced to stay up most of the night cleaning the house. If we didn’t move fast enough we would of course get another round of beatings. It really didn’t matter which of us had messed up, most of the time we were both punished equally, even if we were ‘innocent’.
There was one time that I couldn’t take the needless beatings anymore. I suppose I thought if I was going to get beaten I wanted to deserve it. Not that any child ever deserves such a punishment or torture, but I had to feel some form of control over this situation. I recall, unlike most childhood memories, very vividly taking the tube of tooth paste and drawing a line on the back of the toilet. (About the amount you would put on your toothbrush)
I knew this would set off my step dad, what I hadn’t considered was that my brother, two years younger than myself, would be caught in the middle of my revolution. Like all nights I stayed up listening to the sound of each car drive by waiting for his. I don’t remember much in between the time I painted the toothpaste on the back of the toilet and the time he found it. I’m sure it was unlike any other night filled with intense anticipation and fear.
I do however recall very vividly both my brother and I being beaten. I remember my step dad yelling at us, demanding to know who had done this. Neither of us would admit to it. At this point I was so terrified of what would happen if I confessed. I’d never been intentionally disobedient before and I was terrified of what would happen to me.
My brother, two years younger than me, finally confessed. I was sent back to bed and I could hear the screams of my brother taking more beatings for me. I don’t recall any more of the story. I don’t know if he did it to protect me, or if he did it hoping it would make the beatings stop sooner. All I know is the immense guilt that I felt afterwards, and still feel today.
I knew it wasn’t my ‘fault’ my stepfather was a violent man. But I couldn’t help but wonder why I couldn’t be a better older sister. Why I couldn’t stand up and take the extra beatings. Why I couldn’t take responsibility for putting toothpaste on the back of the toilet when just a few hours ago I had done so with pure courage.
That event was neither the first nor the last of a long 2 1/2-3 years of beatings. Eventually my brother and I both became numb to the pain and quit crying. My stepfather would then resort to more physiological warfare but that’s another story for another day. My mother would eventually leave & divorce this monster but at this point it was too little too late. It’s also not the last time he would legally be my stepfather but again, that to is another story.
I recently decided that it would feel very liberating to publicly identify my abuser. My ‘monster’s’ true identity is, “Clark Kent”. I suppose there is some irony with him having such a heroic name, but I assure you he’s anything but ‘super’. Years ago I looked up the statute of limitations on child abuse hoping I could still report him to the authorities, alas, too much time has passed. He will never be punished for what he did to us. I will never feel the sweet taste of revenge or vindication. More often than not the pain of my past no longer consumes me but I would be lying if I said it hasn’t molded me in some way.
In my journey to being a better person I’ve worked on acceptance and forgiveness. I’ve learned that you don’t forgive people for their happiness but for your own. While I can’t truly forgive Clark Madison Kent for what he did to my brother and I it no longer consumes me. There was a point in my life where the pain of my past left me standing on the edge of the cliff waiting to jump, but I’m far removed from those days. The desperation and despair are but faint a memory, one that I’m fortunate to only have a few memories of. (I have lots of memory loss from my childhood)
My heart aches knowing that there are more children out there fighting this battle, often times alone. If you or someone you know needs help please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Sometimes we aren’t strong enough or old enough to fight for ourselves. One person standing up for the victim and making a call could save a life.
National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)