It's Domestic Violence Awareness Month and today I am helping Author Kristie Cook "Share the <3" by spreading awareness. We have a very special guest who is sharing her story of how she survived domestic violence.
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With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I thought it was time to chime in from a child's perspective. I was seven years old when my dad died. To say he was abusive is actually secondhand knowledge to me. See, my sister Missy was four years older than me. Little did I realize back then that even though we fought like cats and dogs, she gave me the best gift a sister could ever give another sister: protection!
I had no clue that my dad would get totally wasted and beat the living daylights out of my mom, Carol. My sister had a sixth sense of knowing when this would happen and would grab me and take me into our bedroom that we shared. Sometimes she would play dolls with me very loudly to drown out the noise of the fighting, sometimes she would hold me on the bed we shared in her arms until I fell asleep, telling me made up stories. I remember absolutely treasuring those times with my sister. We really never got along that well normally. We were typical sisters. I was the younger bratty sister who wanted nothing more than to hang out with my cool older sister all the time. Missy thought I was the biggest pest in the world. You know typical siblings.
Thinking back now, I guess I always thought it was a little weird that this big sister of mine whom I IDOLIZED day in and day out and whom I thought hated me with her whole being did love. I never knew the truth behind it. I finally realized a few years back when my sister said to me “Don’t you remember all the yelling and screaming and dad hitting mom all the time?" I looked her in the eyes with tears running down my face and simply said “No, Missy, I don’t because you always protected me from that.” At that point she broke into tears and we bonded yet again as only sisters can that have been through hell and back. It was then that I realized that not only had my mom suffered beyond the limits of what any woman should ever suffer, but my strong, amazing big sister had also suffered but still managed to stay strong enough to protect me and keep me from suffering any of the hell that was going on around us.
My dad joined the Army when he was 17 so he could go to Vietnam. He was a small guy. He was only about 5' 4" tall and MAYBE weighed in at 140 lbs. Most of you know the story of our military men when they came back from Vietnam. It was not a good time to be an American soldier. My father became a victim of drugs and alcohol while in Vietnam and it haunted him back into the States. It was his coping mechanism. I can only imagine the horrors he lived through while in the war. He never spoke about it as most military men who have seen combat. He chose to keep it locked inside so it ate him alive from the inside out. He kept it buried with drugs and alcohol, not realizing the monster it turned him into on the outside to the three people who loved him the most: his wife and two daughters.
One rainy night, my mom had finally had enough of the abuse both physical and mental. As she was gathering my sister and me up to put us in the car, my drunken father was in the basement of our house under the kitchen. He had a loaded shot gun. Luckily, we were in the next room in the living room when he started shooting the shot gun. We ran out the door to the car and drove to my aunt’s house. I remember it was pouring down rain.
The next day, my mom told us to not walk home from school but to walk the few blocks to the restaurant where she worked and she would give us a ride home. The events over the next few days would prove to change our lives forever. After school, we walked to the restaurant. The rest is really a blur to me. All I really remember is toward nightfall, going to the house and screaming at the top of my lungs in my aunt’s car because I could not find my BB (my nickname for my beloved security blanket). I remember sitting in the back seat, looking out the back window through the rain drops. My blanket was finally located. I have no clue at this point if I even knew what had happened to my father or not.
The next real memories I have is at the funeral. Yet once again, it was raining. As my father was a Vietnam veteran, he was given a full military funeral. To this day, when I hear TAPS played, I will burst into tears. The 21 gun salute played at a military funeral will make me cringe and have horrible flashbacks of that awful day. I remember the soldiers folding up the American Flag and handing it to my mom.
It took years for me to finally piece together everything that happened that dreaded day. I was at school, sitting in second grade, learning how to write and reading stories. I was playing outside at recess and hanging out with my friends. My father was at home fighting demons that no one should ever have to fight. I will never excuse the hell he put my mother through nor will I ever forgive the abuse both mentally and physically no matter what anyone wants to say about it. I only bring up the hell he went through in the military as I feel this still happens today in 2013 with our military men and woman coming home from war. Luckily today, there is care and treatment READILY available and anyone that has been through any type of hell should seek help immediately!
My father managed to syphon the gasoline out of the family car and pour it all over himself. He then at some point struck a match. He then went up in flames. No one knows that day what was going through his mind or what demon of hell had a hold of him. No one knows if he was sober or full of every type of drug and alcohol known to planet earth. He somehow made a decision that day. I like to think he made that decision to save his wife and daughters from his hell. I really do. I like to think that this was his way of freeing us from the monster he was and could not escape. I am not saying suicide is an answer to ANYTHING at any time because he did not die that day.
He was actually taken to a Veteran’s hospital with 80% of his body covered in 3rd degree burns. The 3rd night in the hospital he managed to get out of bed, ride the elevator three floors down to the main lobby, take a pencil off the nurses’ station and dial the pay phone to call my mom. He told her he was sorry for everything and he loved her and us girls more than anything in the world. He died later that night. He did not die from his self-inflicted injuries but he choked to death by neglect of his nurses while eating his supper. A tragedy? Yes it was but it also made me a true and firm believer in fate.
Everything happens for a reason. I have made peace with my daddy. I really truly have. Had things not have gone the way they did, my life would be totally different today as would the lives of my sister Missy and my mom Carol. My sister Kristi and my sister Ashley would not even exist. I would have never met my husband Jeff and I would have never had my children Morgan and Joshua. My daughter Morgan was born on October 1st 1999. My father Floyd died on October 1st, 1980.
Domestic abuse is not something to be ashamed of. It is nothing that "anyone asks for or deserves" EVER. It is nothing you should hide or make up excuses for and it is most definitely not anything you should ever continuously put up with. My father was ill. Not only was he an alcoholic but he was also mentally unstable. Domestic abuse can break you down if you let it.
My mom was broken. She really was for many years. She had no self-confidence, no self-worth and never felt she was a good mom to us. She later remarried and had two more daughters. Our two younger sisters were the best things that ever happened to us. As time went on, my mom got stronger and my sister got stronger. I learned more and more about my father and the hell my mother and sister went through.
I also learned the hell I was shielded from and protected from. I knew my dad as a fun loving guy that taught me how to fish better than any guy I ever met in my life. The strength and endurance that my mom and sister learned at such young ages carried them through life and made them the truly amazing women they are today and helped me be the strong, confident woman I am today.
If you or anyone you know is in a situation where domestic violence is occurring, PLEASE get involved. Anger issues are a huge problem. Even without a catalyst like drugs or alcohol, certain people are prone to severe anger issues. I think even without my father’s past, he still had severe rage/anger issues. I myself experienced it for many years. I can honestly say today that I do take medication to control my anger and my rage. I am a whole new person since I admitted that I had a problem and spoke with my doctor.
There is no shame in admitting you have a problem. It does not make you any lesser of a person. It does not make you weak. It shows that you care about yourself and everyone you love and care about. Be your own advocate. By helping yourself, you can help others.
My name is Mindy and if I can get through this much hell, so can you! Love and hugs to you all.
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If you or someone you know have questions about domestic violence or you want to know how you can help people like Nikki, visit www.TheHotline.org. And while you're there, Kristie and I hope you'll help by making a donation. Even just $5 can ensure one more call gets answered at The Hotline - an answer that could save a life.
Then, email your receipt to publisher (at) angdora (dot) com for entries into Kristie's giveaway and you could win some cool prizes. Get more entries in the Rafflecopter below. For more details, head on over to Kristie's Share the <3 Giveaway.