I can still feel the tightness in my throat. It felt like my heart was in my throat choking out my words. Trembling because I knew if I spoke my truth, the “Persuader” would come out and my legs would pay the price. It seemed too much to ask to go to school. To have friends. To know my relatives. To not move again. To not be hit because someone was in a bad mood. Narcissism has many moods and one of them is violence.
Domestic violence does not always look like a man hitting a woman. Sometimes it just looks like discipline on the end of a belt or stick, but physical scars might fade, but the the scars on the heart linger. This is why I often say, “What happens in childhood never stays in childhood.”
I received my first spanking when I was one week old. My parents didn’t beat me at the time, but they felt they needed to control me. I was lying alone in my crib and crying for attention and they decided to hit me so I wouldn’t get spoiled.
As I grew into what they called “the terrible twos,” I was spanked until I could no longer cry. While I don’t remember these early events my parents told these stories to me to reinforce the fact that they were in control. As I grew, I was an eyewitness to them belting the terrible twos out of my three siblings.
Each time we moved there were two things that went into my parents’ bedroom—my mother’s hope chest and the belt on the back of their bedroom door that they affectionately called, “The Persuader.”
My entire childhood was ruled by the Persuader. I did everything I could to please people and be a good girl to avoid an encounter with the Persuader and my father’s temper. This meant not complaining about moving every six months or asking about going to school. This resulted in four kids not having an education. The last year of education for my youngest two siblings was first grade in an accredited school and third grade if you count a loopy, religious child labor curriculum in a non accredited church school.
Throughout my childhood and teen years the Persuader never left my mind. It influenced every decision I made. Decades after I left home, I still felt unsafe to mention what happened to anyone. Even with my own friends and husband in my own home, the Persuader had almost convinced to remain silent.
In my forties, I began to blog about the painful secrets and tried to make sense of my life. I wrote about a pivotal beating I received for whispering in church. A belting that left my legs covered with bruises and caused me to distrust God and hate church for most of my life. Even though I used a pseudonym, my family members thought it was out of line. I tried to explain how I needed to share my story and help others and I have to say my relationship with them has never been the same.
This is where narcissism comes into play. Even if people are not full blown narcs, to lack empathy and to ignore their children’s pain—first in childhood and second in adulthood, fundamentally breaks the relationship. Jesus said two cannot walk together unless they are agreed. When a parents ignores their child’s pain at any age it only deepens the wounds.
The last time I saw my parents, they quizzed me on my theology for three hours. I came in love, hoping to patch things up. I wished we were equals and they would recognize we all make mistakes, but most importantly, we all have a right to our feelings and memories. When I mentioned the lack of schooling and the beltings–how we could never talk about it even as adults and how their choices forced on me, affected way too many days of my adult life. I was told “If you had not jerked around so much, Daddy wouldn’t have had to hit you with both sides of the belt.”
They’ve accused me of not forgiving, but it’s not true; I forgave them over and over. Forgiveness is not the missing ingredient, empathy is the missing ingredient and until they can respect my right to use my voice and tell my story, we will continue to have a gulf between us. It’s not the way I want it, but I can no longer ignore who I am to be who they want me to be. I can no longer allow the fear of the Persuader to choke out my voice.
I haven’t always enjoyed reliving the painful moments of my life, but what I do know is that speaking them out loud helps. Realizing God not only sees all the days of my life, but allows me to speak of all the days of my life has brought profound healing to me.
In June, a program was launched through HopeLine called “Because Voices Have Power,” a national campaign designed to increase awareness of domestic violence and provide a platform for the public to send messages of hope to victims and survivors. For each message of hope shared, Verizon has committed to donating $3 to local and national domestic violence prevention organizations across the country.
They have already collected over 10 million phones nationwide, while donating over $18 million dollars to domestic violence organizations. A great explanation of the program can be found here: http://www.verizonwireless.com/aboutus/hopeline/index.html
Today, I add my voice to the Voices of Hope because our voices do have power. Please feel free to share this blog and retweet or make your own tweets with the hashtag #voiceshavepower
And no matter where you are or what has been done to you, you CAN speak the truth–even when your voice shakes.