#DomesticViolenceAwareness, Child abuse, Depression, Domestic Violence, EMDR, Grief and Loss, healing, Hope, Love, Uncategorized

January 2020 Domestic Violence Story: A Child Witness

Since awareness is key to helping end domestic violence, I want to share a story each month with a different focus. There can never be too many stories shared. Sharing replaces hopelessness with hopefulness.

Since this idea did not come to me until late into the month of January, I thought I would start with my story. I did share my story in October 2019, as well as in my memoir, The Monster That Ate My Mommy, but there is always room for more details and more insight. My hope is that sharing my story, even on repeat, it will reach the right people to make a difference. If one person is helped by my suffering, it was for something.

The first three years of my life I did not have contact with my father, and as far as I know, neither did my mom. She brought baby girl Aiken home to her mother’s house from the hospital with the father’s name on the birth certificate blank. From the start she knew she didn’t feel safe around my dad, and maybe for the first time in her life, she listened to her gut feeling. During those three years she kept him away from me, and because he was not named as my father, without a DNA test, he did not have any rights to me.

The plan had been to name my brother’s dad as my father, and I was going to be given his last name. He agreed to this plan, and as far as I knew, he was my dad. He was loving and kind, and fun to be with. Before this plan could be put into motion, he became very sick, and died. I am not sure if it was this alone that changed my mom’s mind about my dad, or her wish to give me a father, or the hope for a family, but he was welcomed into our lives. My birth certificate was changed to list him as my father, and my last name was hyphenated to include his.

Within days we were moving into a new place as a family, and the abuse came creeping back in. Some of the scariest, most traumatic moments of my life came from the three short years we lived together. I witnessed my brother’s beatings, so severe, I was not sure he would live. I watched as my parents had violent sex in the living room, and saw my dad inches away from ending my mom’s life.

I was a watcher. I watched and observed everything. I wanted to be prepared for what might happen. Every sound awoke my adrenaline as I waited for it to escalate, and spiral out of control. Even at four years old, I knew I had to think fast, and be ready for what might come. I knew I had to be strong and step in for my mom or brother when their beatings became too much. I’d cause some sort of distraction to take the focus off them, hoping the belt across my bare bottom would be enough for him. If they could have a break, maybe they would be strong enough for the next time.

I knew there would always be a next time. I knew that even when we were laughing and having fun, it would end as quickly as it started. My guard was never down, and it wasn’t until recently that I understood the impact this has had on me.

Some things are easy to see what they were caused by, while others take time to fully understand. My newest development came in a counseling session where EMDR therapy was used.

The goal of the session was to understand the reason I don’t feel at home anywhere. The last place that felt like home was my gram’s house, the same house I was brought home from the hospital. Even though I moved out of this home when I was three, every time I went back, I knew I was home. It wasn’t a big surprise to me. It made sense that my gram made it feel like home; she was home.

My problem was I have not been able to recreate that feeling since. It was not due to feeling unsafe or unloved. I didn’t understand what was the route of this lack of connection came from. In the past abuse and neglect made it was easy to see why I didn’t feel like I was home. My life is no longer filled with either and I wanted answers. I wanted to fix it. I wanted to find that feeling.

Some of the factors that lead to this decision were the boxes I have not unpacked for over ten years. They follow me, all the things I have carried with me throughout different moves, and do not find a permanent place inside the building I reside. I do not decorate or make an effort to make it feel like “home.” I thought it was because I was lazy…or busy…but lately, I knew there was more to it.

During my session I had to go back in time to a memory that may have caused this. Going down memory lane I counted 20 moves in my lifetime. Most all of them had a negative connotation. There were two that stuck out. One was when I was 14 and first in foster care, and the second, the one that I worked on, was when I was six and going with my dad for visitations.

Tears began to roll down my cheek as I thought back to thirty-two years ago, to my six-year old self with my rolled up brown paper bag full of my clothes gazing out the window, waiting for my dad’s car to arrive so I could slip out the door before my parents had a chance to interact. In those moments I dreaded these weekend visits. I wanted to go to my gram’s, but on his weekends, I couldn’t.

As I worked through these emotions and memories I realized what had been keeping me from feeling at home. It was the lack of fitting in, the lack of having a safe place, the lack of belonging, the lack of having a solid foundation.

How does this all relate to being a child witness to domestic violence?

All that fear, and waiting I experienced followed me. I’m ready at a moments notice to throw my belongings into paper bags, or garbage bags and throw them into my car to get to safety. I’m ready to make my escape, because to me, home was not safe. To me, home was where I went to be hurt and watch others be hurt. It was a place that held all the secrets and horrors that no one else was allowed to know. It was filled with loud voices, swears, insults, and bruises. It was the space between going to school, and my gram’s house, where safety wasn’t questioned.

Watching my dad hurt and threaten to kill my mom changed me. It instilled a fear in me I thought was part of my existence. It gave me an altered view of what home and love were supposed to look like. It ate away at my self-esteem. It robbed me of self-love.

It changed me.

As an adult, who found my way to my own house of horrors, it took me a while to realize it was not normal. I didn’t believe I deserved anything other than what I had always known. I recreated a “home” that mimicked the one I had grown up in. On guard for the next incident to happen, I never had time to get comfortable. I didn’t know what comfortable was.

Recently, I thought something was wrong with me because I can sleep through my husband’s alarm clock. I know now that there is nothing wrong with me. For the first time in my life I feel safe. Safe enough to sleep soundly. Safe enough to let my guard down. Safe enough to figure out what home is.

It’s time to start living. Existing is exhausting.

If you have exposed your children to domestic violence, please don’t feel guilty. We all do the best we can with the information we have at the time. Each day is a new day to make a change. Tomorrow is a clean slate. Don’t let the past keep you somewhere you never belonged.

I don’t share my story for pity, I share it for awareness. Awareness is the key to ending domestic violence.

#DomesticViolenceAwareness, Domestic Violence, gas lighting, healing, Hope, Uncategorized

Awareness is Key to Ending Domestic Violence

In October of 2019, the Stand Up to Domestic Violence project helped over thirty survivors share their stories. Every day of the month a new story was shared to spread awareness. Awareness is key to helping end domestic violence. The more we talk and share, the more people know they are not alone. When the stigma is removed from domestic violence, more people may come forward for help. More friends and family members may spot abuse in relationships of their loved ones. More teens will be able to spot the signs of abuse sooner. More children may understand what happens at home is okay to be talked about; it will give them the power to share secrets they may otherwise carry with them for decades.

When these doors are opened, they shine a light on the abuse. With knowledge comes power, and safety. When we share our stories we learn that someone else may have been through what we went through. The words that were used to keep us prisoner may lose their power when we hear how many others were called the same names, told the same lies. When we talk, we grow, and when we grow, we see the world around us differently.

So many survivors I have talked to have told me, “I didn’t know it was abuse.” “I didn’t think it was domestic violence.” Time and time again, I heard stories of cruelty being brushed away because it was just how it was. Women were raped by their husbands, but they didn’t think they had a choice. Men and women lived in fear, because they just thought that was how it was supposed to be. Doesn’t every relationship include threats and violence?

It wasn’t that many years ago I didn’t think what I was living through every day was abuse. I questioned my sanity. I did not see my value, and I could have sworn I had no worth.

“It’s not that bad.”

“At least he doesn’t hit me…everyday.”

“It only happened a couple of times.”

“He said it was my fault…I know what buttons to push.”

“He’ll take my kids away…he’ll prove I’m crazy.”

These thoughts kept me stuck. I had no idea that the lies I was fed were verbatim the same words others were being told by their abuser.

Word. For. Word.

As soon as I was able to break free enough to get a glimpse of my value, I was able to see. I didn’t deserve to be talked to like that. I didn’t deserve to be raped. I didn’t deserve to have my money stolen from me, or my credit destroyed. I didn’t deserve to be physically assaulted. I didn’t deserve to hear death threats. I didn’t deserve to live in fear.

The power this knowledge gave me was paramount to my survival and escape. Had I not seen the glimmer of hope, I would still be stuck. It was as simple as knowing life didn’t have to be that way any longer. My goal is to help as many men, women, and children understand their worth. It starts with you.

Do you have a story to tell? Do you know someone who does? Do you need more information? Knowledge is power. Help me take back our safety, our bodies, our minds, and our hearts. Share posts on social media, talk to whoever will listen. Have facts, or real life experience, and share…share…share! Together we can make a difference. Let our voices be heard, let them shake the ground under the abusers who use power and control to harm others. Leave them powerless over the ones they are so good at hurting.

I would like to share at least a story a month, if you are interested, please reach out at contact@jessicaaikenhall.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/aikenhallauthor/.

Watch for surveys that I will be posting, where you can share your story, or pieces of your story anonymously.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

#DomesticViolenceAwareness

#AwarenessIsKey

#DomesticViolenceAwareness, Child abuse, Domestic Violence, poetry, Uncategorized

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: “Jill’s” Story

Up against the wall… there you were Dangling inches above the ground Suddenly I was drowning with the sounds Of your aching screams of pain My vision was blurred with roaring streams That were forming in my eyes, What do I do was the question of the hour Do I let this one pass by Or do I start to scream and shout What do I do, what do I do…What do I do? The white telephone beginning to form in the corner of my eye Like the sun trying to beam through a rain cloud, Finally I was blinded by that beam of sun I turned around and dialed those foridded numbers 9-1-1
Thank you, Jill, for the touching poem. Thank you for sharing what it was like for you to witness this, and thank you for being brave and saving your mom.

You are strong.

You are brave.

You are loved.

You are safe.

#DomesticViolenceAwareness

#DomesticViolenceAwareness, Child abuse, Domestic Violence, Sexual abuse, Uncategorized

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: :”Jane’s” Story

Thank you “Jane” for sharing your story. Jane did not want to share anymore than what was written on the paper. I appreciate her willingness to share what she was comfortable sharing. Sometimes it is just the act of being heard that gives a person the strength to heal.

As a survivor, I think it is important to know you are in control of your story, and your healing. While the abuse was happening, often, we felt out of control. People took advantage of us, hurt us, used us. Now, as we step into our power, we have the right to tell the story how we want it heard. We have the power to take our life back, and rewrite our story. It just starts with a sentence. And, as we are ready to share, we are able to go at our own pace.

Some of us are not ready yet, and that is OK. Some of us just benefit from reading or hearing what others went through, and how they survived, and what life looks like for them now. Some of us have a story, but are not yet able to be identified due to fear, or shame. We are each different, and there is not one way that is the right way.

Your story is not less important because you cannot release it. Your story is not less tragic because someone else suffered more.

You own what happened to you.

You are strong.

You are brave.

You are not alone.

#DomesticViolenceAwareness

Domestic Violence, healing, Hope, Uncategorized

The Well Read New Englander: The Monster That Ate My Mommy By Jessica Aiken-Hall

Source: The Well Read New Englander: The Monster That Ate My Mommy By Jessica Aiken-Hall 

Monster Ate Mommy_Front Cover_090217

 

Review by Carla Charter

What I first noticed about this book was the main character, Jessica.  She struck me as a Phoenix. Despite the horrific physical, emotional, and sexual abuse she survived as a child, with each negative she still rose again, like the fabled bird determined to rise above her circumstances.

An important theme of the book which is highlighted again and again is the importance of having an anchor. A family member, a grandmother, a friend, who will stand up and say no more. Even if the abuse continues despite the pleas and the lies of survival, these anchors provided a respite of sanity, when the childhood world around was nothing but chaos for her.

The repercussions of Jessica’s childhood abuse can be seen clearly as she grows, feeling unloved and unwelcome, she enters her adult world looking for the love she never received, through whomever will give it. Thus her abusive childhood ripples and transforms into abusive relationships and eventually even affects her children.

Still despite it all, despite her mother’s drinking and depression, despite her horrific life of abuse and neglect she still finds her way to peace and a resolution with her mother and thus becoming a shining beacon to survival.   Her life while fractured by others, in the end Jessica herself builds into a beautiful mosaic of hope for the future.

The book is a must read for those looking to understand the complexities of abuse and the long-term effects abuse can have.

For anyone who may leaving or reporting abuse, the following agencies may be able to help

Domestic Violence Hotline

www.thehotline.org

1-800-799-7233

Child Abuse Hotline

1-800-4-A-CHILD

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

Child abuse, Depression, Domestic Violence, Uncategorized

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Although, I am aware every single day. I am on edge from the PTSD at times I least expect it. A loud noise, people yelling, an angry expression can be the trigger. A feeling comes over me, and I fear for my safety. I scan parking lots as I walk to my car, waiting for death that was promised.

It is not something that just goes away. Good days can be stolen in an instant when a memory pops up. Anxiety creeps in, and there is nothing that can quiet the mind. My heart races, as I wonder why I wasn’t one of the statistics…but I know there is still time. When an unpredictable abuser, who was never held accountable for his actions roams the streets, his death wish for me could be a when, and not if.

Thoughts like this, make Domestic Violence part of what shaped me into who I am. Fear from childhood, wondering when my dad was going to kill my mom, and I continued to be fed by threats from my ex husband. I have expected my murder since I was four years old. Before I even knew what death was. It is a miracle that I am still alive, and I am determined to be the change. The change for my children. The change for others who want to be free. The change for me.

Alone, the world is a scary place. Together, we can get through anything.

You are not alone.

From The Monster That Ate My Mommy:

Chapter 29

A couple of years into the job, I found out I was pregnant with baby number three. Chuck and I continued to fight, but that was the norm now. We couldn’t have a conversation without calling each other names or yelling. Ian was four and Emerson was two. Chuck only occasionally put his hands on me now. Most of the abuse was emotional.

Until I was nine months pregnant. Chuck spent the day belittling me. “You’re a fat whore. No one has ever loved you. Your own mother hates you. You’re just a piece of shit.”

After hours of listening, I couldn’t take it anymore. I had the cordless phone in my hand from my daily call to Gram, and without thinking, I threw it at Chuck’s bare back. I wanted him to stop talking. I was nine months pregnant, my husband was verbally abusing me, and my hormones were raging. I wanted him to leave me alone.

He spun around and yelled, “You’re gonna pay for that, you stupid, fat whore!”

Ian and Emerson were in the living room, and they stopped playing as he ran to me. I ran past him into the living room to get the kids to a safe spot, but as I got into the living room, Chuck pushed me into the changing table. When I didn’t fall, he pushed me again, harder. I stumbled and landed on the floor in the kids’ playroom as Ian yelled, “Daddy, no! Stop, Daddy!”

On the floor, I held my stomach. Chuck came over and kicked me over and over again in the back. He kicked me harder each time his foot made contact. Ian ran over to try to make him stop. I fought back the tears because I didn’t want Ian to be afraid. Emerson stood in the corner of the living room, crying as she watched her father continue to yell at me. I needed help. I managed to get to my feet and walked to the phone. When Chuck saw what I was doing, he ripped the phone out of the wall and threw it. “What the fuck do you think you are doing? You’re not calling anyone.” He pushed me into the doorway to the upstairs, pushing me so hard my body broke the door. The kids both watched and cried. We were all at his mercy.

Chuck pulled me up out from the broken door and dragged me into the kitchen by my hair. He tried to smash my head onto the hot wood stove. I couldn’t let my face hit the stove. I somehow managed to brace myself in the door frame of the bathroom that was in front of the wood stove. He took my head, bounced it off the door jam, and yelled, “I am going to kill you!”

The kids followed us into the kitchen. Their screams filled the house. Ian yelled, “Let her go! Let Mommy go!”

Chuck didn’t let me go. He grabbed me by the neck and pushed me into the wall as he yelled, “You are dead! I am going to kill you and hide your body.”

“Daddy! Please don’t kill Mommy. Please, Daddy, please.” Ian’s pleas didn’t stop him.

Chuck continued to yell, “You are dead, you fucking whore. You are dead! The kids won’t care if you’re dead. They don’t even love you.”

“Daddy, no! Daddy, we love Mommy. Daddy, no.” Ian pleaded with him.

Chuck finally let go of me, and the kids ran over to me. Emerson hugged my legs, and Ian stood guard. Chuck was angry they were so upset. “Stop your fuckin’ crying. God damn it…make the little fuckers stop.”

I held them close to keep Chuck away from them. Chuck paced the kitchen as they continued to cry. “Get the fuck over it!”

My whole body hurt. The baby stopped moving. I was scared he had killed the baby inside of me. I sat in the living room with Ian and Emerson in my lap, and I cried with them. Chuck sat on the couch to watch us. “I need to go to the hospital…the baby isn’t moving.”

“You’re not going anywhere. You just want to get me in trouble.”

“No…I’m scared the baby’s hurt.”

“You’re fine, the baby’s fine.”

 My body was covered in bruises. It hurt to sit down. After a while, the baby did move, and Chuck reminded me he was right, there was nothing wrong. He told me again if I told anyone what happened he’d kill me and take the kids. He said he would cut the baby out of me and take it too. I couldn’t leave them. I couldn’t let him kill me and leave them with him.

At my doctor’s appointment, a nurse asked about the bruises. I said I had fallen down the stairs. I hoped they wouldn’t believe me, but they didn’t ask again. She told me it was selfish of me not to come in right after the fall. I felt like I’d failed this baby too, just like I failed at everything.

After that day, my dislike for Chuck grew to hate. I hated him for all he had done to me. I hated him for all he did to my kids. I hated him for all he pretended to be. I hated him for all the hope he stole from me. I hated him for everything. We’d been together for six years, and I still hadn’t told him I loved him. Now there was no way he’d ever hear me speak those words.

#MeToo, Child abuse, Depression, gas lighting, Hope, mental illness, Uncategorized

Healing Trauma

 

img_7491Continued from  : An Adventure Awaits

When the show aired, a new level of healing came…but it wasn’t immediate. It took time for everything to ruminate, circulate, and eventually sink in…honestly it still is. The haze on my mirror was thick…after all, it had been gathering grime and dust for over thirty years.

When I saw my step-dad (from here on referred to as him) on stage I could not help but feel sorry for him. That was always my downfall –feeling sorry for the people who hurt me the most. I just could not understand how someone could or would hurt someone else intentionally. Why? There must be a reason behind it. That reason took away my anger, but it also took away my ability to see them as a danger.

A gift and a curse life gave me –to find the good in people. It was what kept me alive, but I now see it is also what kept me in situations that were unsafe.

As I heard him speak, I could not feel the anger I should have felt. I felt sad. I felt sad that he was alone. I felt sad that he did not understand what he did was wrong. I imagined his life now, and I wanted to help him. This empathy, or pity really, kept me from acknowledging my own feelings. It kept me from being able to own what he had done to me, to my sister, to my mom.

George sat with me as we watched the shows. His anger was visibly present. I still could not see what George saw. It had not sunk in yet.   As we talked after the show, about what was aired, and what was not, I still felt sorry for him.

“That’s what he wants. That’s what he’s always wanted.”

“Maybe, but I still can’t help it. I still remember the good parts of him.”

“After what he did to your sister? After what he did to you? Your mom?”

I could see there was nothing I was going to say to explain it. I didn’t even really understand it myself. “But, he didn’t understand what he was doing.”

“Did you not hear him only admit to what he was charged with? He knew what he was doing then, and he still knows.”

As George’s words hit me, I saw it. I saw that he did know. He admitted to only what he had gone to jail for. Nothing else. My pity turned to anger. For the first time in my adult life I could see him for who he was.

That’s when it shifted. That’s when the mirror started to become clearer. Nothing was what it had seemed. Nothing. It got worse before it got better as I went back through my life with this knowledge. It is life shattering to realize that your whole life was a lie. You are not who they told you you are. So who are you?

Who am I?

What if all of my memories were a lie? What if my gram wasn’t who I thought she was? What if I didn’t really know anyone as I thought I did? These thoughts took me down. Back down to where I had fought so hard to get out of.

When I was ready to stand back up, I saw the world differently. I saw myself differently. I understood that the trauma I had gone through as a child was worse…much worse than I had accepted before. Not only had I been abused physically, sexually, and emotionally…I had been forced to live in an alternate reality…and forced into believing that it was me that was damaged. This belief was still haunting me, causing me to see who they wanted me to be, and keeping me from seeing who I really was.

Imagine for a minute that your eyes are blue. Beautiful, sky-blue.

“Your eyes are brown.”

“No they aren’t, they’re blue.”

“No, they are brown.”

“No. My eyes are blue.”

“Don’t be crazy, they are brown.”

“No! They are not!”

“What, are you color blind? They are brown.”

“I am not! I know they are blue, I can see them.”

“Stop being difficult. You just want to make everyone out to be a liar, when we all know you are the liar.”

“No, I am not! I know my eyes are blue.”

“We all know they are brown. Tell her.” A nod of the head.

Maybe they are brown?  “They are blue…I think…I thought…”

“Go on, look in the mirror…see…they are brown.”

“Maybe I don’t know my colors. I do have brown eyes.”

“See, we told you.”

What color eyes did you have again? The above scenario is how my entire childhood was, and followed me into adulthood, when my ex-husband took over.

What I realized was that every person who had ever hurt me, had been introduced to me by my mom. My dad, step-dad, the man who raped me, my ex-husband…all were sent to me through her. Each and everyone of them shared this connection. As I took this in, I realized that the lies they told me were all similar, almost as though she had handed them the book, How to Keep Jessica in the Dark.

I learned who I was from that book. I saw myself only how they saw me. I beat myself up because I could not see myself in any other way. Even after traveling on my healing journey, even after being with people who told me how they saw me, even after sharing my story with others and hearing praise and encouragement –I still could not see what they saw. 
 
The spell that book carried left the day my mom died. It has slowly been lifted off of me, but the roots of damage are deep. I have to live each day shaking free from its hold over me. I look in the mirror, and I still have to take a cloth to clean the dust that settled back over it. It takes effort every single day to re-learn who I am. 
 
When I understood this. I understood why. I understood why I have such a hard time pushing the negative self-talk out of my head. I understood why I cannot accept praise, or kind words. I hear them, but it doesn’t feel right. It feels foreign. Slowly, I start to see a glimpse of who I really am.  
 
I had thought when my gram died, I did too. And maybe that is accurate, but I was not officially reborn until my mom died. With the spell lifted, I am now learning how to live without the lies, without the hurt. A whole new world. Each day is a new day.  
 
I am not who they said I was, and understanding why I believed all the lies so intently, I am able to forgive myself a little more. It was ​that ​bad, and I do not have to pretend that it wasn’t. The freedom that came from this helped me see how much I really did need to heal the past trauma. I had done a lot of work already, but new work was needed. It was time that I gave myself permission to love myself.  
 
The thought of being free from the spell, from the lies, from the negativity scared me. What if I was not worth getting to know? What if I was not worthy of love? What if the lies were the truth, and when everything is fully lifted, I will see that I am broken.  
 
Anxiety lingered as the days to go to Onsite grew near. My heart pulsed out of my chest, fluttering at the top of my throat. I couldn’t sleep. What if I wasn’t ready? If not now, when? I had been held hostage from my real life, my true life for too long. I was ready to try. 

Continued on: Trauma Camp