This is the first in a series of articles on Domestic Violence. Abuse comes in many forms and sometimes it is not recognizble. In order to stop something we have to be aware of it. By imparting these words, I hope we all can learn from these stories as hard as some of them might be to read or even hear about - Abusers need to get the message...
Domestic Violence - Child Abuse
No one reading this will actually know this person, but she is every person anyone reading this knows whom, has been subjected to domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault. She is a victim who has long struggled to overcome the horror that befell her and she has led a ruined life. This is a true story of one person who represents every person ever to have suffered a similar fate.
I will call her Barbara, and she is now 50 years old. She is a giving, caring, highly intelligent and very lonely woman, who was once a gifted and promising musician. As a young girl coming into womanhood, she was also the victim of unimaginable abuse at the hands of her grandfather. As is often the case, due to no fault of her own, family circumstances placed her in harm’s way, in his home at that most vulnerable time. He was a drunkard and wife abuser behind closed doors, but a respected member of his community when in the public view.
Barbara would lose her childhood to the drunken weekend sexual abuse of her own grandfather and his drunken friends. Soon her talent and school grades faltered. Then came the suicide attempt and the secret could not be hidden any longer. She was, removed from the house by another local family. Formal charges were never brought against her grandfather or the others, as things went during those times, but she was now - safe.
Barbara moved from family to family, with no formal psychosocial help. She worked odd jobs and eventually fell into the social services safety net in the county where she lived. In her 30s, she lost her driver’s license after trying to kill herself again, this time with automobile exhaust fumes. She suffered brain damage, mostly short term memory, but remained as sharp as a tack, and fully aware of her ever diminishing circumstances.
Physically, Barbara is a tall, very overweight woman, who crops her graying hair close and actually appears asexual in that respect. She is a chain smoker (cigarettes) and is fairly/heavily medicated. She tries very hard to help others by volunteering at the places where she had been helped. She is a church choir member and teaches Sunday school. She has support and friends, but has never had a loving companion. Barbara lives in subsidized housing and has infrequent employment through county programs. She needs someone to manage her money, medicine, daily routine and such because she forgets from moment to moment.
Barbara tries to fit in, and tries to be cheerful, but the pain of her early life is always in her eyes. Now her fragile strength will be tested by a new problem. After weeks of feeling ill and developing swelling in her jaw, a metastatic cancer diagnosis has arrived. The ravages of chain smoking, bourn out of a troubled life, have brought one more abuse to her.
If you knew her, you would know how truly sad this is. Alas, you do not need to know her to know how many truly sad stories like Barbara’s there are out there. The way her situation was handled so many years ago, by well-meaning people, in some distorted fashion, actually gave permission to the offenders. They suffered not a wit, while Barbara suffered everything.
That is the problem of every victim of abuse and what we need is more and more people who truly understand the problem to help solve it.
L.S.Photo: Concealer by Ket Quang
Thank you all for your bravery and for sharing your incredible stories. The more we are aware, the more we can faclitate healing, closure and maybe even mend some relationships. - VH Editor