by Patty Hite
Living in a dysfunctional home, I was taught by example how to deny and ignore the things around me. No one spoke about the fights and arguments that went on and I learned to not speak about them too. My mom did everything to protect us kids from the many women my dad had affairs with. But she couldn’t protect us from the fights and arguments that went on in the middle of the night. I heard my mom tell my dad to lower his voice so he wouldn’t wake us up. But that didn’t stop him from abusing her with his harsh words. There were many nights I would wake up crying and holding my little hands over my ears so I wouldn’t hear the fighting.
I understand the heart of my mother. She wanted to protect her children, but it was confusing to me as I became an adult. My dad got drunk, slept with friends and relatives of my mom’s. She would catch him and then he would abuse her. A child knows. I knew my dad was doing wrong because I could hear the excuses he gave her. She thought she was protecting her children by protecting him. She wanted us kids to respect him and honor him. She sacrificed her self-respect in order for him to be respected. She took last place in the home and it showed as we became adults. Although I know my brothers loved my mother, their time was spent with my dad. It was sickening to me because they made him the martyr. They idolized him and would do anything and everything to stand in the same room with him. They tried to out-do each other to get a word of praise from him, and there were times that I wondered if they asked him for permission to use the restroom. They heard no evil. I did.
Shortly before my mother died we talked about her life. I wanted to know if she was happy with the outcome. I wanted to know if she did everything she wanted to do. Her response to me was, “I should have never left your father.” It floored me. She was eighty years old and still loved this man. But more than that, she thought her life would have been more complete if she would have stayed with him. He molested her daughter, had affairs with her relatives and friends. He abused her verbally and degraded her.
She still spoke highly of my father after all these years and continued to live in a fantasy world with him as her king. I started to remind her of all that he did to her, and she reminded me that he was my father and I shouldn’t judge him by how he treated her. I was really confused because I questioned my loyalty to her and my sister. Why shouldn’t I be angry and upset at the way she was treated? Why should I honor a man who molested my sister? Why shouldn’t his actions have a reflection on my decisions concerning him? She couldn’t and wouldn’t hear me any longer. She spoke no evil. I Do!
I married a man who physically abused me and it was very important for me to protect my kids from seeing and hearing it. I knew I was going to be beaten so I would make my way to the bedroom. I did everything to muffle my cries of pain and caught myself many times, telling him that the kids would hear. He didn’t care what they heard or saw, and made a spectacle of my abuse in front of them. Of course it was to gain fear and control over them and me. It was so traumatic that I found out later that my children dissociated most of those times and only remembered a few of them.
I became a pro at covering up my bruises and started each day in the kitchen, acting like nothing happened the night before. I spoke well of my husband to my children and used words like “Respect your Father” and “Mommy made Daddy mad” and “Daddy loves you so much.” I contradicted everything they heard and saw of the abuse. I know now that I painted a false picture to them. I tried to convince them that they didn’t really see what they thought they saw and that the bruises I tried to cover up weren’t really there. I’m sorry that they saw evil.
When abuse reigns in a home it covers every aspect of that home. The walls are never thick enough to muffle out the yelling and crying and there’s not enough makeup to cover up the scars. I know now that there is no excuse for abuse. It doesn’t matter what I was shown as a child, and it doesn’t matter how much I tried to hide it, abuse should never have been allowed in my mother’s life, my life, nor my children’s lives.
I used to ask myself what I could have done differently to cover it up more—to protect my children better than my mother protected me. The only way I could have done better was to stop it from happening at all. I set my children up for abuse and years of emotional torment, the same way I was set up. It’s taken me many years to come to the realization that I am a product of my mom. My abuse, though more physical than hers, was a copycat by the actions I did to cover it up and protect the abuser. I WAS a product of my mom, but NOW I’m a product of my healing. I see abuse for what it is, I hear and recognize the truth now and I use my voice to expose and resist it.
As a survivor of emotional, physical and sexual abuse, Patty Hite has been tenaciously pursuing her healing for over thirty years. She’s a passionate advocate for all survivors and dedicates her life to inspiring emotional wholeness in others. As a former victim of spousal abuse, she’s delighted to find true love with her husband of five years. She’s blessed with four children and six grandchildren.
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