The horse's pasture to the East...

Wednesday, March 1, 2017


I'm going to write about violence today. I choose, most of the time, not to identify myself with my abusive and chaotic childhood. I've worked hard for my entire adult life to understand and forgive my parents; my Father for his uncontrollable temper and inability to "control his hands" (as Mr. Stewart talks about in this and other videos on youtube) and my Mother for not being strong enough to take us away from a home where we all were endangered. 

Where does domestic violence come from? How can we, as a species, hurt our own children or spouse, brothers or sisters? It's self destructive and it leaves scars that never go away. It's a pattern that repeats itself down through the generations, creating and recreating the atmosphere for more violence.

My Father, like most of the young men of his generation, was a veteran of WW2. He and his brothers served during the war. Statistically the vast majority of men in prison for domestic violence or for assault are veterans of war. We lived in one of those households where uncontrollable anger, pain, frustration and physical violence took root and bloomed. 

I don't know what went on in my Uncle's houses but I can tell you that in my parent's home I always kept a window open, hoping that I would have a way to escape. I watched my Father break a board over my brother's back because he was lost in a snow storm. He would strike me so hard that I flew across the room, hitting the wall and being knocked senseless. He would fight with my Mother, throwing things at her and hitting her. And one of my brothers was on the street by the age of fourteen, becoming a drug addict and convicted felon later in his life. I am certain he left because his home life was worse than his life on the street.

 I was an expert on violence, on being able to predict the atmosphere and temperature in the room and knowing when it was coming by the age of five. And I always knew the best way to exit the room too; either through a door or, if I couldn't get to the door, through a window. I knew a lot about how to hide and if I wasn't able to get away, to hide inside my head. 

Violence begets violence. One of the definitions of the word patterns is : Consistent and recurring characteristic or trait that helps in the identification of a phenomenon or problem, and serves as an indicator or model for predicting its future behavior. 

It's a repeating pattern that recycles itself because of the imprint it leaves on the children who grow up in a house with domestic abuse in it. I've watched the lasting effects of our childhood roll down through the generations, putting a niece and a nephew of mine in prison as convicted felons. They've been incapable of long term relationships and have lost custody of their children. My nieces were pregnant by the age of fifteen and none of those children finished high school. 

Do I think war had something to do with it? I think that's a high probability. I never saw my father's parents show any signs of aggression towards any of us or each other. We sometimes spent weeks with them in the Summers. There was plenty of opportunity for uncontrolled anger and violence. It never showed it's face to any of us. My father had scars on his head, perhaps causing closed head injuries (something that was not part of the conversation in the fifties and sixties or even seventies). Shell shock was the term for PTSD during that generation. I have no way to confirm it with my father or mother. They died many years ago. But I do believe his behaviors may have been affected by his experiences during the war.

I've spent my life as an adult breaking the pattern of violence imprinted on my childhood. Violence is a choice. I decided NOT to be like either of my parents. I took classes, went to counseling, took a minor in psychology in college. I learned the art of self defense, choosing not to be vulnerable. And my mantra now, to my sons and others, is ALWAYS QUESTION AUTHORITY. And I am one of the lucky ones. I married my best friend who has always been there for me, reaching out and helping to put me back on my feet when I was struggling. In my family my husband and I, together, have broken the pattern of pain, anger, frustration and "not being able to control one's hands". 

I will never understand the violent side of our nature as humans. I will not condone it. And I will not participate in it either. Violence is a choice and mine is to walk away or, better yet, run away from it. 

I still stop to look at any room I'm in, making sure there is a way to escape. I never walk in to any situation without looking at all of the people present and being prepared to run, hide or if there is no other choice, to defend myself. My scars will never allow me to fully relax in any social situation. Trust is a powerful word for me. It is rarely given and once broken it can take years to recover or, sometimes, never at all. 

The videos I've linked here will give you a basic set of steps to take if you or someone you know is being abused. Please, please reach out for help. And if it is refused, ask again and again. 

The National Abuse Hotline number is :1- 800- 799- SAFE (7233) or
                                                         1- 800- 787- 3224 (TDD)

Both numbers will put you in contact with trained counselors and are completely confidential. Please, ASK FOR HELP either for yourself or for the person you know is being hurt.

I am, ever yours, Nancy, no longer silent and smiling because I can!

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