A Woman’s Choice
He was my first stepdad. He used to beat my mother up all the time. I never quite figured out why. He said it was because we were both dummies. “You’re nothing but a bunch of dummies” is exactly what he would say to us (when he was in one of his “rages” as my mother put it) and then he would start hitting her.
The sound of a face being hit is not a pleasant one. It would make a smacking noise as the hard flesh of his fist hit the soft flesh of her face. After just two or three years of these smacking sounds, I would begin to wonder, “Is he going to kill her now? How much more of this can she take? What do I do if he kills her? How can I escape?”
For three years, there was no escape from this madness. Needless to say, my self-esteem went down to nothing at times, because I looked down at myself and felt bad for not being able to protect my mother from his beatings. My mother did not want me to tell anybody else about what was going on, so I did not. For three years, I kept silent. Even though I sometimes felt like I would explode with anger at him, I kept silent.
“You’re nothing but a bunch of dummies!!!” He used to say that to us every day.
It was programming, and to some extent it worked, but only to a certain point, because I knew it wasn’t true. It was a lie that he was trying to get us to believe. It was kind of like Hitler’s “Big Lie.” If a lie was heard every day, no matter how outrageous and untrue, eventually, people would believe it.
I thought about Hitler’s Nazi Germany and how wrong Hitler was, as a way to fight his statement, “You’re nothing but a bunch of dummies!!!” I even went upstairs and looked in his closet at the German Iron Cross that he had (it was a souvenir that he kept that he said he’d gotten from a German officer). The few times I looked at it reminded me of the horrors of Nazi Germany, and how wrong Hitler was, and of all of his outrageous lies that people believed because they heard them repeated long enough.
I had heard “You’re nothing but a bunch of dummies” every day from him for years, but I wasn’t going to believe it. I was going to fight the lie that I had heard, any way that I could, because I knew that if I didn’t, eventually I might end up believing it was true. This helped me to get through seeing my mother get beaten up by him, just because he thought that she was nothing but a dummy. And even though he thought of her as a dummy, she chose not to be one, because she ended up making the bold choice to leave him. She passed away recently, but she lived a happy life for 30 years after she left him.
It was a woman’s choice, and it was her choice.
The day started out like any other, but it did not end that way. I was a substitute teacher at a junior high for about three years. I had many positive encounters with students, and they all knew me well. I was given a science class to teach for the day, and I was in the process of taking roll call before the morning announcements were made.
As I said the name of the next student on the list, the students all said, “She is dead.” I replied, “That’s not funny—now, where is she?” and the students responded respectfully by telling me that the student was really dead. She had been murdered by her father over the weekend along with other members of the family. They had all been shot while they were asleep. The students said that the school was going to let people know in the morning announcements.
It was like stepping on my own grave when I heard that, because I’d often wondered what would hav happened had my stepdad ever made good on his threat to kill my mom and me, as well as what would happen afterwards at school. I imagined them making an announcement like the one that would be made at the school today.
I had only seen the student a couple times, and I did not know anything was wrong. She’d told me that she wanted to be a vet, and some other things, and asked me if it was possible to be more than one thing in your life.
I had replied, “Yes.,= I used be a firefighter, and now I am a teacher, so it is possible to be many things in your life.”
My hope is that if other victims out there read my story, they can discover that life has more than pain in store for them, and that they can get the help they need before it is too late.