Growing up in an abusive home
One of the volunteers at Sheltering Wings recently opened up to us about his own childhood.
As a young boy, he lived in a family in which abuse was a constant part of life. He was what we call one of the silent victims of domestic violence — an innocent child who experienced horrors as his mother became the victim of years of brutality.
When people hear stories like his, many ask, “Why didn’t his mother just leave?” It’s not that simple. As a mother, she was completely responsible for her children’s well-being. Where could she possibly go that would be safe from her abuser? He knows where her friends and relatives live. And even if she had a place to go, could she support the family? Domestic abuse is about control, and one of the first things many abusers do is take complete control of a family’s finances. Often, the woman doesn’t even know where the family’s money can be found.
And there’s another hurdle women who are being abused frequently face: their friends and families don’t believe them. They accuse the women of lying or exaggerating. Or they suggest that maybe they just need to do a better job of being a wife. Being a better mother. Or being a better girlfriend.
Many stay because it’s the only way they can provide stability for their children. So they endure the abuse and hope the children will survive. Physically, they probably will (although the potential for child abuse is much higher in homes with domestic violence), but what about the psychological damage?
Our volunteer likely lay awake in his room, listening to his mother plead with his father. He heard the sounds of violence and the crying that followed. He listened as his father spewed vile names and language, and issued progressively more terrifying threats. It’s hard to imagine an impressionable child being forced to witness such hatred. And it’s all too easy to see why so many boys who grow up in such homes learn that abuse is a normal part of relationships, and why girls raised in that environment accept abuse as a normal component of love.
“I wish there had been a place like this for my mom to go,” he told us. Fortunately, he understood that what he heard and witnessed was wrong. And while he couldn’t help his mother back then, today he’s supporting the families that have come to Sheltering Wings to escape their own stories of abuse. So while his story may be a sad one for his family, it has led to happy endings for many others.