Sunday, July 26, 2015

Dear Ehren: Ending the physical violence

Dear Ehren,

When your grandma had me, she was still a teenager. From the beginning, her choices left her in a position where she was ill-prepared to care for me. She did her best, drawing on the examples she had from her own childhood. Unfortunately for all involved, the cycle of abuse and neglect goes back for generations in our family. Having a baby as a single teen mother is no easy feat, and your grandma soon found a partner to help her. This partner was the first to hit me, but not the last.

Grandma married this man when I was about 1 year old and concealed from me that I was not his daughter. A few years later your uncle was born, and we all lived in a small house together in a rural community. I noticed from a young age that I was treated differently. The realization that it was because I was unwanted "excess baggage" didn't come until I was an adult. I suffered physical violence at the hands of my "dad", "grandparents", mom, aunts, uncles, other male partners of my mom's, and babysitters. When I recall moments of my childhood, the strongest memories that come to mind involve being struck or abused in some way.

You should know that I didn't take it all without fighting back. I often put my hands in the way so that it was harder to hit me and would try to talk my way out of it. One evening, I was wrongfully accused of stealing a bottle of liquor from the refrigerator. I was pulled from bed where I was sleeping and interrogated. I denied it repeatedly, but the adults in my life did not feel it fit to believe me. Instead, I was beaten across the back, behind, and legs with the buckle end of a belt. I knew it couldn't stand. I was beaten for being honest about a bottle that had simply been moved out of a child's reach. The next day, I went to school where we had gym class and were required to run a mile on a track. I chose that day to wear short shorts to showcase the bruises on my body. I felt so vindicated when my teacher noticed. Child services was involved, and I thought I had finally saved myself and my brother from this man. Unfortunately, this was not the end for us, and we lived with this man for at least 6 more months before a divorce was even considered.

This is where the cycle will come to an end. I will never hit you. I will never spank, swat, slap, or otherwise strike you. From all of this awfulness, I learned to stand up for myself. To fight for what's right. To always do the right thing. That's why I know, and can promise, that I'll always protect you. I'll use words, not my hands. Additionally, anyone who does harm (or attempt to) will be immediately removed from your life permanently. I have no tolerance for an adult exerting physical aggression towards a child. It is inexcusable, immature, and disturbing.

These are my promises to you, sweet boy. Even when you try my patience, I will always love you and never, ever harm you.

Love always,


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