”Fathers*, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
New International Version
[Trigger warning: child sexual abuse and rape, rape culture.]
If you had told me thirteen years ago, that I would become a Christian blogger, and counter-culture activist I would have laughed you right out-of-town. If you also told me that in my thirtieth year, I would come to a profound realization that I am almost exactly like my father, I would have knocked you out. Why? Because the comparison isn’t kind.
For lack of a better term, my father was an a______, and before you start e-mailing me keep in mind the man’s favorite song was Dennis Leary’s I’m An A______. For my old man, the word wasn’t an insult, but a badge of honor, and it was true. Until his death at age forty-nine, from an aggressive form of leukemia, my father was an abusive and psychotic a______.
For the first twenty years of my life, I watched him turn my mother – a former Sergeant in the U.S. Army – into a broken shell of a woman. To give you an example, when I was ten I watched my old man take a hot poker, and purposely burn my mother on her legs.
Ironically, the level of violence he displayed in his forties was mellow compared to that of his twenties. My father was married several years prior to his relationship with my mother. According to his close personal friends, he was so abusive to his first wife than in desperation she lied about the parentage of their son. To get him to leave, she claimed that my half-brother was the product of an affair with a guy who owned a nearby bar. In retaliation, following a disastrous confrontation with the other man in question, he drove back to the trailer where they lived, and tried to burn her and his son alive in a fire he deliberately set.
Fortunately, they survived.
Following his divorce, my father moved to Alaska where he met my mother, and started a twenty-two year nightmare. In the years I spent living in that house, I watched every form of abuse imaginable. I saw my mother beaten, and worse during the first two decades of my life. I know someone out there is thinking, “Why the hell didn’t she just leave?”
For one, my father had isolated my mother from friends and immediate family. We lived fifty miles outside of Anchorage in a rural part of the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. The fastest response you could expect from the State Troopers – we were outside the jurisdiction of the Wasilla Police Department – was forty-five minutes to two hours, and that was on a good day. The one time she tried, my father ripped off her clothes, and locked her outside for nearly thirty minutes in the middle of January.
The temperature that night was -18F.
Without a license, my mother was unable to drive, and also didn’t know how. For eleven years we didn’t have a phone, and that was purposeful. Once, during a violent fight my mother had tried to call the police, and my father jerked the cord out of the wall. The next day he went outside, and cut the line off of the house clear back to the pole. It wasn’t until I was thirteen that he had a new one run to the house, and that was because at that point he no longer had to worry about my mother calling the police after a beating.
Isolation made my extroverted mother psychologically weak, and pushed her into a severe depression. Eventually, she started to become delusional to the point that her mental health lapsed, and she began suffering the effects of Dissociative Identity Disorder. This condition had plagued my mother in her youth, but had gone into remission following counseling and treatment while in the military. My father later admitted that he had purposely engaged in a campaign of psychological warfare in order to cause her to dissociate, and re-splinter into multiple personalities. Why?
Because he didn’t want me to love her more than him.
One would think, after hearing some of the highlights of my youth, that I hate my father, but I don’t. instead, I see a man who was the victim of a series of grievous sins, and a perfect example of what can happen when you repay evil with evil. This summer, I took some time to dig into some of the rumors about the paternal side of my family. What I found, was an explanation was to what happened to turn an innocent kid who liked to play baseball and study chemistry into an animal.
Humans create their monsters, and we create them through sin.
My father was repeatedly molested by an older woman who was a friend of his family. When the truth came out, because the parties involved were people with social standing, money exchanged hands, and the whole thing was swept under the rug. In the meantime, the abuse continued for another two years until my father was thirteen.
My father was also the victim of horrific physical and psychological abuse at the hands of my grandfather. In fact, it got so bad that my grandmother sent him away to live with her father-in-law, my great-grandfather. At no point did anyone, save my one aunt and great-grandfather, advocate for my father, or defend him. It explains the inhuman rage that would boil out of him at a moments’ notice, and the self-deprecating rhetoric that followed.
In 1972, my grandparents turned loose a man who would try – at least once – to kill both of his biological children, and in ways similar to the manner in which is father had tried to kill him. My half-brother was nearly incinerated alive, while I was pushed in front of an oncoming car, and held underwater. All three had been done to our father.
This cycle of abuse eventually claimed my older brother. Currently, he is serving a life sentence for beating his infant son to death. I am still trying to find out the details, but I know that the consequence was a sharp decline in our father’s physical and mental health. I have no idea what was going on his head, but I know on his deathbed he admitted that he knew that his failings as a father had contributed to the death of his first and only grandchild.
This summer, I realized that I am my father’s daughter, and no I am not an abusive psycho. I abhor violence. Instead, I make an ass of myself, usually with my big mouth. While I inherited his keen intellect, unorthodox character, and passionate nature – I also inherited his temper and piss-poor communication skills. From my mother, I inherited her knack for the English language, and low tolerance for BS. I also inherited her paranoia, and neurotic habits.
In tandem with a decision I first made back in 2009, I’ve decided that this year is the year I am going to stop letting my parents’ s___ be my s___. Harsh words, but its exactly how I feel. When I was an undergraduate, I took anger management classes, and as a graduate I am in counseling to deal with the baggage from my childhood. Not only that, for the sake of my parents, I am speaking up about Domestic Violence and Child Sexual Abuse. Why? Because people need to realize that when we serve man instead of God, people suffer, and for generations. I have too many friends who have had their parents hush-up an ‘incident’, because they were afraid of the social fallout, especially when the predator was a parent or relative.
I cannot for the life of me comprehend how someone could remain in a marriage, share a bed – hell – share their bodies with someone who has committed adultery with their own child? Yet, I know the daughters of several women who opted to remain in the marriage, even after finding out about the incest, for fear of social fallout, or the loss of financial stability.
There is also the issue of Domestic Violence.
When I was a child, I remember hearing the local proselytizers tell my mother that by remaining in the marriage, she was ‘bringing glory to God’, and her suffering was His ‘will’ for her life. Seriously? I guess you could make that argument, when counting all the nights I spent praying that my parents wouldn’t kill each other. Although, when you start taking into account the times my mother was beaten absolutely bloody, or horribly mutilated it becomes real hard to see that as ‘glorifying’.
Marriage is supposed to reflect the model in the Kingdom of God, and last I checked beating your spouse to the point of near-death is not in line with that. God also says point-blank that He doesn’t ‘will’ sin, nor does He condone it. Rather, God works to help people overcome sin, and through their perseverance He is glorified as He reveals His hand in delivering them. If the intent was a profound ‘change of heart’ courtesy of a long-suffering wife, it certainly didn’t happen. Even on the last day he was coherent, my father was verbally abusive towards my mother, and prior to that had even attempted to kill her despite the fact that he was dying of cancer.
Therefore, I am going to ask you to take the time to educate yourself about Domestic Violence and Child Sexual Abuse. Familiarize yourself with the programs in your area, and find ways you can help support them. Work to raise awareness at home, in your community, and in your church. If you hear a domestic disturbance in your apartment building, or neighborhood, call the police.
Lives – no – entire generations could be at stake.
*Can also be translated as ‘Parents’.