16 Days Guest Post: Home is not always a safe house

Thank you to R. Femme (mistakenly credited for yesterday's post...sorry) for this touching post about violence within one's family.

As I have never posted about such a personal topic on the internet before and this is my first involvement in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, I hope that those who read this can appreciate my attempt to tell my own story as well as take a stance against gender violence.

I grew up in a dysfunctional household; my father was extremely abusive, not only to my mother but to myself, my sister and my brother. We never knew exactly why my father was angry but when he was, we all felt his wrath; he would scream, throw things, and all to often hit one of us. My mother was brave enough to protect us for the most part; she often put herself in between us and my father when he went into his spontaneous and uncontrollable rages. I lived with my father until I was fourteen when my mother decided to finally leave him; my mother and I moved in with my grandmother, while my brother and sister decided to remain with my father.

I was happy to be in a house with hot water and heat and a sense of normalcy which I had never experienced before. When I was ten or so, my father had decided to rip the insulation out of our walls and at the same time decided not to pay the heat bill, instead spending his paychecks on marijuana and his precious motorcycle. I no longer had to wear my winter coat inside or go to the community center for a hot shower.
Unfortunately at the same time, I was suffering from kidney disease and found out that I had to have major surgery that year. I was trying to maintain a relationship with my father, hoping that he would change because at that moment I needed him. He drove me to my appointments at my mother's behest but often complained about the trip and we were almost always late. When I went into surgery, my mother waited for the six hours in the waiting room while my father decided his time was better spent elsewhere. He came to visit me a couple of times during my recovery but never stayed long.

After my surgery, I maintained a relationship with my father for almost a whole year before the whole family fell apart. Upon finding out that my mother had moved on, despite having rejected her only months ago when she had begged him for a reunion, my father had my mother arrested on false abuse charges. I was interrogated at the local station about my parents' relationship and I told them as much as I could through my tears. As I left the station with my grandmother, I saw my father and I became very angry and didn't talk to him for almost three weeks.

When I eventually did talk to him, he only insulted my mother and blamed me for not telling him and I left for good. My brother and my sister were angry at me for different reasons upon my excommunication of my father; my sister didn't understand how I could "abandon" my own father, and my brother had been manipulated into believing every lie my father told him. Despite this tension, I was able to maintain a relationship with my siblings and still do to this day.

It has been over four years since I have talked to or seen my father; I moved away with my mother and I am attending university. My sister now understands why I have chosen to leave although she still lives with my father who still demeans her, but she refuses to leave him. My brother doesn't understand me though, he acts like my father and I am sad that he is going down the wrong path. My mother is the most important thing in my life and we have been through everything together, I also have a new sister who I love very much.
I grew up a witness and victim of gender violence in my household as well as a blatant sexist for a father; someone who believed women belonged in the kitchen and that a man had an obligation to punish. I have been told that I am destined to be abusive myself by various people; that I am like my father on the inside and that I have "run away" from my problems.

It is something that has shaped who I am today; part of the reason I am where I am, a part of my feminism, and a part of my whole family. Why I try so hard to help those in similar situations, the reason I want to be a good role-model for my baby sister, and the reason I am writing this right now.

I have encountered many people who believe that domestic violence is something of the past, something that doesn't happen anymore, but I want those people to be aware of reality. I want my story to be a part of that awareness, awareness that leads to action, action that leads to justice for all victims of abuse.

If you would like to submit a post for 16 Days, please use this handy dandy form. Thank you.