I will often share the stories of those who experienced adversity in childhood where they were not the direct target of the abuse. I do this to illustrate that any person who experiences adversity in childhood is profoundly psychologically impacted, regardless of whether or not any physical trauma is sustained. But many who grow up in these homes are also the direct target of the abuse themselves, facing not just 1 childhood adversity – CDV – but also a 2nd adversity – child abuse. And many face 3 or more, such as divorce, drug or alcohol abuse by a parents, incarceration of a parent, emotional abuse, etc, etc.
Here, I’d like to tell you the story of Faith, who certainly experienced multiple adversities in her childhood home. Faith witnessed and experienced extreme violence as a child and now shares her story as a cautionary tale. Fortunately, as we’ll see in later posts she eventually freed herself from the tragedy of her childhood.
My hope in sharing her difficult story is to show you that no matter how extreme your own experiences may have been, there is freedom for you as well, if you choose it.
Faith and her sister would go to bed afraid
As far back as Faith can remember, her mother was a source of constant abuse. First, her biological father was on the receiving end of her mother’s rants, as she put him down with vile insults until he couldn’t take it anymore. By the time Faith was 5, he had left and her mother used child visitation as a punishment, frequently telling Faith and her younger sister their dad didn’t want them and promising visits from him, only to cancel them at the last minute. He eventually gave up trying and disappeared from their lives altogether.
Within months of her father’s departure, Faith’s mother found a new man, a kind of soul mate, if you will, as he was just as much of a hothead as she was. Each night, Faith and her sister would go to bed afraid, to the sound of screaming, and wake up the next morning to find projectile objects like clocks and phones smashed on the floor. But her mother kept him around. He was a good provider who did her bidding.
From the outside, everything looked fine
“From the outside everything looked fine,” Faith said. “We had a nice home, went on great vacations. But inside, it was hell.”
Faith not only watched all the violence between her parents but was subjected to it as well, as are about half of all children who experience adversity in childhood, as I mentioned earlier. However the violence she endured was extreme. Faith, who admits, “I had a mouth on me,” was singled out in the family. She was subjected to regular beatings by her stepfather, while her mother looked on, not only refusing to stop the abuse but encouraging and often ordering him to dole out the punishment.
Faith’s experience would get far worse before it got better
As Faith got older, the beatings intensified and because it fell upon Faith to do all the housework and childcare, looking after her younger brother and her new half-sister, she became more defiant and angry. Faith talked back and stole money – and caught hell for it –a cycle of rebellion and retribution that became routine.
Faith’s experience would get far worse before it got better. Yet, in her story we see a spirited child who endured so much but did not break. We also see in her story a mother who inflicted GUILT, SHAME, and punishment through violence. Faith would grow up learning this LIE that she was somehow to blame for everything – that everything would have been different, better, that she could have prevented the violence in the home if she had just done things differently – if she’d just done things right.
I hope you can see that Faith was blameless in the violence that surrounded her in her childhood home. Yes, she did rebel, but this was in response to the violence, not the cause of it. And it did not justify the violence.
Can you also now begin to see how you were blameless as a child for any violence that you saw, heard, experienced between your caregivers or were subject to by them?
Please share in the comments below what you think of Faith and her story. Did it remind you of yours? Do you still carry around the GUILT and SHAME?
A detailed overview of the GUILTY lie can be found in CHAPTER 1 (“Guilty to Free”) of INVINCIBLE: The 10 Lies You Learn Growing Up With Domestic Violence, and the Truths to Set You Free.