Many women have shared with me their stories of abuse over the years, most of them much worse than my own. I share mine to give purpose to my pain, and hope to those still struggling with the pain of abuse.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts me in all my distress, so that I am able to comfort people who are in any distress by the comfort with which I myself am comforted by God.”(II Cor 1:3-5)
My mother married a Marine when she was seventeen years old. I was born on January eighth, on Camp Lejeune Marine Base. Therefore, there’s no excuse to forget my birthday. Celebrate Christmas, a week later New Year’s, and another week later my birthday.
When I as almost three, my mother had twin boys. My first memory is running back and forth between bassinettes, barely able to see them while standing on tip toes. I thought they were my babies, and I was diligent to watch over them. Ricky had a heart defect and died when he was three months old. I remember reaching under the net of his little bassinette coffin, trying to wake him up.
I’ve since learned our father was overseas when Ricky got sick. His shipmates passed the hat and collected a thousand dollars, which was a lot of money in 1956. He began his trip home, partied his way around the world, and arrived home three weeks after the funeral flat broke, with a doll for me.
My mother found out he had another family, so she divorced him. The last time I saw him, he held me and said, “You’re the only one I want. I’ll be back to get you.” I never heard from him again, but I continued to believe my mother lost him because he loved me more than her.
My mother and bio-father
We moved in with my grandparents. They were the only stability of my childhood. Granddaddy was the strongest man in the world, and he was my hero. He let me stay up and watch the late, late show and drink black Cuban coffee. I was my grandmother’s shadow in the garden and in the kitchen. She took me shopping and we always tried on all the hats. Most of all, they were always there.
Granddaddy was a preacher. He and my grandmother shared their love of Jesus with me. I went with them to a little church when I was five. I still have a clear vision of myself in that church. As I prayed, a bright light poured into the window, and I was covered in the light of God’s love.
My Grandparents and Me
My mother married again and had another son. At the age of seven, we visited some of his family in another state. My brother, cousin, and I played on the front porch. The plan was to hold hands and run and jump off the porch. We all ran but only my brother jumped. He landed badly and broke his leg in several places. My mother and baby brother stayed with him in the hospital . . . my stepfather brought me home so he could go to work an I could go to school.
Once we arrived home, my stepfather told me to sleep with him so he wouldn’t forget to wake me up for school. While I slept, he began sexually abusing me. I was terrified. I learned to disappear during the abuse. He threatened me and made me swear I’d never tell. Of course, I believed what was happening was my fault. In my child’s mind I knew I could never tell because my mother would lose him, and she’d already lost one husband because of me. I had to protect my mother.
After Mother came home from the hospital, the abuse continued. He made me cry and plead with her to stay home with him when she went shopping or to get her hair done. He loved to hear me beg to be with him. We went to a picnic at a lake once and he told me to beg him to take me swimming. He laughed while he abused me in the water in front of my mother and family.
The first place I was affected was in my speech. I always had excellent speech. I talked constantly to anyone who would listen. Suddenly, I developed a profound stutter. I recognize it now as a cry for help.
I have little to no memory of second through sixth grades. I was afraid to sleep. He waited for mother to go to sleep so he could come into my room. I used to lie in bed awake, dreading the sound of his footsteps in the hall. He began to grab and touch me every time mother turned her back. I was constantly on guard, looking around corners, and trying to stay out of reach.
Finally, Mother came to me and told me she’d had a dream every night for two weeks. She asked if he ever touched me. I can’t tell you how relieved and frightened I was. He’d warned me that he would kill me if I told anyone. I knew it was only a matter of time.
For many years I believed mother left him at this point, but when I started the healing process, I realized she lived with him for another three years and continued to leave me alone with him. These years are almost blank except for two memories. The first, I remember standing between the bed and the wall while he beat me with a belt. Second, I remember being locked in something small.
Me 8 years old
At some point she left him. We moved back in with my grandparents and she went to work at night as a waitress. One day she brought home a wonderful man. They married when I was fourteen and we moved into a beautiful house with air conditioning. He was funny, loving and a good provider. He took us on wonderful vacations and boating and skiing every weekend. He kept us laughing.
He considered it his personal responsibility to keep the guys on third shift at Budweiser working. “Bring me another beer, those boys are counting on me,” he’d say. Drinking for my mother became alcoholism. When she drank, she loved my brothers and hated me, but when she was sober, she loved me and hated my brothers. Naturally, my brothers kept her drinking. They’d say, “Here, ma, have another drink.” I hid the liquor as best I could.
Because of Mother’s drinking, I had to do the cooking, cleaning, and ironing. I took care of the boys and tried to protect them from the weekend brawls. Every Friday night we pulled the covers over our heads and dreaded when they came home. They yelled, screamed, and threw things until Mother came to find me to referee. Occasionally, the police came and hauled daddy off to jail with mother in the front yard, crying, “Oh, but I love him.”
I didn’t bring friends to my house. Needless to say, there weren’t too many seeking an invitation. Everyone knew about us. Mother’s drinking continued to escalate. Many times, she’d tell me to leave, then she’d take my clothes and throw them in the front yard. To get away, my brother quit school and joined the Marine Corp.
My junior and high school years were haunted by my speech and the chaos of home life. In 1973, I met my husband in Junior college. When he brought me home on our first date, I had to explain why my clothes were in the front yard. We dated for three weeks, were engaged, and married within five months. He was my knight in shining armor. He was strong, confident, and fearless. We married on my grandparent’s fiftieth wedding anniversary. I felt safe for the first time in my life.
After I married, my mother and stepfather quit drinking and became the happiest of couples. They held hands everywhere they went. They lived in love and peace until daddy died in 1978. Today, my mother is single, very active in her church and loves the Lord with all her heart.
LaVonne the Loan Officer
My life was full of contradictions. I was very successful in my career. I was a top producing loan officer making a six-figure income. My ministry was thriving. I was teaching at a drug rehab, along with several Bible studies each week, and I wrote a study of the Book of John for addictive personalities. However, my methods were far from Christian.
My life was fueled by rage. I drove like a bat out of hell forcing other drivers off the road. There was nothing I could not achieve through fear and intimidation. A client once told me, “I sucked all the air out of the room.” I was trying to create value because the truth was, on the inside lived an abused, terrified little girl, unworthy of protection, surrounded by chaos, with no power and no hope.
Then the Lord started meddling. Suddenly, everywhere I went I received Words of healing from abuse.
“It is time for the abusive voice to stop!”
“I see you walking on broken glass.”
“Memories, memories are being healed.”
Everything I read, every song I heard, every movie I saw . . . I was surrounded. I could not escape. I just got angrier and angrier until I finally gave up. Then the Lord gave me a verse, Luke 2:51 “. . . and his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.” I realized as women, that’s what we do. We hold everything in our hearts. The Lord, lovingly, took my hand and step-by-step we began the healing process, the healing of my broken heart.
I learned to love the person God created me to be and that God loves me best. I learned how to be still, quiet, and to live in the moment. I learned the secrets of forgiveness, to accept and enjoy people for who they are and not make demands they cannot meet.
In my marriage, I first acknowledged my vows were to God and not my husband. I stopped making demands on him to meet needs only God can fill. I learned how to gift love. After forty-nine years, we’re starting to get the hang of it!