WARNING: THE FOLLOWING IS SOMEWHAT GRAPHIC AND NOT INTENDED FOR CHILDREN UNDER 18. All other articles on this site are rated G.
NOTE: I was recently sent a letter that basically said I should be ashamed of who I am, where I come from, and who my parents are. I was explicitly told that I am a disappointment and should be hiding my background more, and not “Airing My Dirty Laundry” on this site, or any site, because it’s all too shameful to be spoken about in a public, or even private, forum (in other words, I should be censoring myself). I was also told that I don’t know the “real truth” about my background. Short story: I do.
This post helps prove that I’m an open book. I know my personal and genetic history, and I always have. Nothing about my ancestry has ever been hidden from me. I am neither ashamed of who I am, nor who my parents are. Quite the opposite, in fact: I am proud of both. This post is a tribute to my mother, a woman I am immensely proud to be the oldest daughter of.
Lisa and her mom, November 2012
HERE WE GO:
Imagine growing up a girl who is shown every single day of your life that you are worthless. You are told that girls aren’t as worthy as boys. Your own mother allows you to be sexually molested for years and tells you that it’s your own fault because you are a dirty and worthless girl. You aren’t allowed to participate in basic activities that your brothers take for granted, like learning how to swim (not something girls “need to know”) and doing homework or going to school regularly (instead you have to stay home to cook and clean, because that is the highest ambition anyone of your gender could hope to succeed at). You even have to take your bath last, after every member of the house, in the same water as everyone ahead of you–you are last in the “pecking order” solely because you are female.
Now imagine that you are 20 years old, on your own finally, fully supporting yourself as an independent adult, and that you decide to take the advice from your friends and family and date a friend of a friend–the first you’ve ever really dated. Now imagine that this date has a problem–a big problem… He’s a drug addict, and worse, he beats and rapes you on this date (and you find out later that he has beaten and raped a lot of women). Being inexperienced in anything except abusive physical touches, you question yourself and your worth. Did you bring this upon yourself? Did you deserve it? Is this what a dating relationship was supposed to look like? You think maybe yes, since that was what was modeled for you your whole life, and you certainly don’t deserve better.
Imagine 20+ years of: Abuse. Shaming. Molestation. Hitting. Beating. Whipping. Being thrown out of moving vehicles. Having to go and get one of your dad’s belts so that he could beat you with it every single week, just because you “probably deserved it”. These have been your day-to-day living experiences for your entire life. You can’t imagine life any other way, because you’ve never experienced or even seen anything else and didn’t even know a better life could exist. Yet you find yourself naive, alone, beaten, and now pregnant–by a man who raped you. You take your beaten self to the only people you “trust”, your family. You’re called a slut by them (even though you’d never actually had sex before, only having been repeatedly molested by a family member over several years) and much worse. You are confused because the man rapes and beats you again every time you’ve seen him since the initial raping. You’re told, again and again, that you are a worthless human being and you are deserving of all the abuse that you have ever received and will ever receive. You are told that the reason you deserve this is simple: you are female, and females are “less than” males.
What do you do?
Seriously, what would *YOU* do? I know I’ve spent a lot of time pondering this.
Why would I ponder this horrific existence? Well, this is the exact situation my own mother found herself in in 1972. That baby she did not abort, that baby that was a product of a brutal rape, was me. The incentive she had to start, just start, standing up for herself was: ME. She felt that I was a gift to her and it opened her up to thinking that a female could be a wonderful being, worthy of love and respect because she felt nothing but love for me. And when she saw firsthand that I would be beaten and abused, too, if she stayed in abusive relationships, she finally stepped away from physical harm and stood on her own–with me in tow. This is pure bravery.
Can you imagine being disowned because you were raped and left pregnant, even though you married a drug-addict out of fear of going to hell for eternity?
What would you do with your life under these circumstances? From what I’ve seen, most women in this situation either die young, end up going to jail, or give in to it all and live an existence of misery.
Not my mom! After years of figuring out who she was, she found (and fell in love with) a man (my dad, an amazing man) who treated her (and me) with honor, love, and respect, and she married him. My mom decided to not call herself a victim and, instead, became proactive in making the world treat women better (and now, all people since it’s clear that abuse is not just geared toward females). She started with our home, and she raised me in what she considered the exact opposite way that she was treated as a child, with the hope that I’d never feel that “less than” way that she had always felt. For a career in helping people, she first worked at a Women’s Shelter helping battered women and their children get away from abuse, then at a mental health institute helping those with mental and emotional issues find some peace and become healthier, and (for the last 15+ years) she’s devoted herself as a Batterer’s Education Program facilitator. What’s that? you might ask. Sounds fishy… or at least crazy. What!?! She educates people who batter? On what?
Yes! While I, super-empowered woman that I am, would stick my nose up (figuratively) at people who are abusive to their spouses, children, and pets, my mother is actually doing something about it. I help good parents become great ones. My mom helps broken and abusive ones become mentally healthy and stable ones. Her work is profound at a basic level of humanity. I only know how to help those who are already at a higher level of living.
My mom, amazingly, has dedicated her life to actually helping people who have been legally convicted of battering and abuse! She doesn’t just counsel men and women who are abusive to their mates, extended family, and/or children, but she actually gives them the tools that they need to figure out WHY they’ve behaved how they’ve behaved and how to move past those “reasons” and start treating other people (and themselves) in positive ways. Yes, that’s right! She has helped wife-beaters and child abusers STOP–forever! Whoa! That’s amazing.
After all of the horrendous abuses my mom has gone through in her life, she’s actually HELPING OTHERS not be abusers. She doesn’t sit and moan about her life. She doesn’t call herself a victim. Does this mean she’s “over” how she’s been treated? No way! She still has nightmares of being hurt all over again, but she’s strong. [Which is even more astounding since she’s just gone through a year of pure hell: death of my dad’s brother, brain infections, stage 3 tonsil cancer from second-hand smoke, chemotherapy, radiation, death of a friend, nearly dying herself several times, feeding tube, operations, blood clots in her lungs that almost suffocated her, more near-death infections than I can remember, being more in the hospital than out, and all the related stress and bills…] Yet, her primary worry through this all has been: “Will I be able to continue helping people not be abusive?”
Seriously! Who on Earth would be thinking like this? Only my mom, that’s for sure.
She has proven that when we “hide our dirty laundry”, we are perpetuating a violent and abusive cycle. Yet when we open up and bare our truths, we can stop violence, help ourselves become better people, and pass that new knowledge onto the next generation.
My mom does all this with very little family support, too. Yes, she has my dad, my sister (and her family), me (and my family), and my dad’s parents (my fabulous and loving grandparents who have always treated me as a beloved granddaughter), but she doesn’t have (and never has had) any support from her side of the family. Quite the opposite, in fact, as the very last time my mom saw her mother, her mother claimed to have never given birth to a daughter! The precise situation is that my mom was visiting her mother in the hospital. She was holding Grandma’s hand. Her brothers and all of their significant others were around the hospital bed. A nurse came in and asked about all the people. My grandmother said, “I have been pregnant three times and have given birth to three sons, and they are my only children, I was never lucky enough to have a daughter.” [For the record, my mom has a twin brother, so the number of pregnancies was listed correctly.] Then, later, she introduced my aunt to the nurse as “the daughter I always wished I had had.” That day was a last-straw moment for my mom, especially when none of the rest of her family stood up for her. Things like this had always been said about her and to her (often behind her back, as I personally witnessed during my entire childhood), but this time she decided she had had enough. Good for her! I say. No one has the right to treat another person this horribly over and over again. After this, not a single person there has tried to contact me in over ten years, until this recent attempt to tell me how ashamed and humiliated that I should be for… existing? Believing that females are equal to males? Believing that hitting other people, especially your own children, is bad and wrong? For believing that any type of harm, sexual or otherwise, is wrong to do to another human being? Believing that it’s a mother’s JOB to keep her children as safe from harm as humanly possible and to love them forever no matter what?
I’m so proud of my mother for standing up for herself! I’m so proud of the legacy that she has given to the people around her who all know their worth. I’m so proud that it has become my mother’s life work to prevent the abuses that she used to think were a normal part of human existence.
Is she a perfect person for doing this? Am I a perfect person for the work I do with helping people become healthier and kinder? Of course not, but we are both striving to continually be better–to continue to strive to DO LIFE RIGHT! I’ve seen my own mother continually improve herself and I make it quite public that this is my primary goal for myself. By hiding our faults, we’ll never improve. By exposing what we’ve been through, what has been done around us and to us, we’re brainstorming ways of making sure the bad stuff never happens to anyone else again. To me, the most shameful thing to be is stagnant and in denial of reality, refusing to become better people and improve our lives and help others improve their lives.
To all parents out there: Never undervalue the worth of showing your children that they should always be treated well and that they can accomplish any dream they set their mind to. I never would be the mother that I am today if it weren’t for my own mother discovering her power in standing up for me by standing up for herself. I look forward to the day when she is completely healed physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally from all that she’s been through in her life. I respect and applaud how she has turned the abuse that she has gone through into her life’s work–her passion.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! You are an inspiration to me and the entire world! You have saved thousands of people from being abused by helping past abusers learn better ways of communicating and treating others. Thank you for personally breaking the abuse cycle for not just our family, but for thousands of other families.
Thank you, Mom! You are an inspiration! I’m so happy that you are alive today despite all the odds the world has held against you. I love you! Now let’s get you healthy enough that I can see you sometime this year…
Here are two other blog tributes that I’ve posted for Mom on past Mother’s Days: