I could throw down statistic after statistic regarding child abuse. The numbers are heartbreaking. But, I’m not going to do so. I am not a statistic. I have a name. I have a face. I have a soul. I am a veteran of child abuse.
At the time of my travail, most people refused to help. They didn’t want to get involved, and there was the silent command, “Thou shalt not interfere with a family.” As I grew, and broke away from my torment, I began to ask questions, many questions, heartrending questions, and the terrible conclusion that somehow, I was not worthy to be saved.
As a mother, I find myself perplexed as to how anyone could harm a child, God’s greatest gift. I wonder why my love was thrown away, and I think of my compatriots who are enduring abuse now. Children without a voice, longing for love and deeply, deeply ashamed of what is happening to them.
Yes, ashamed. Somehow we internalize that we are defective in some way: no one can love us; no one cares about us. We take the blows, the neglect and the abuse as our due – “It’s my fault. If I could just behave better, be prettier, smarter, faster, if I could, if I could…if I could.” Nothing you do is good enough, so it must be your fault.
I used to walk at night in the hopes of avoiding the violence that was the makeup of my home. Peering into windows as I walked past, I’d see families sitting around a table, laughing, talking; a father lifting his little girl high above him as she squealed with delight; father and son in a tickling match, with Mother watching and laughing, holding her sides, face glowing. A clean house, a warm house, a house full of laughter, all underscoring the fact that mine was a dark, dirty, vicious hell. It was my fault. It had to be my fault, my shame, and so the hopes and dreams within me slowly died.
Our lives, experiences, kindnesses and even cruelties are like a set of dominoes, stood on end, waiting for the catalyst that will begin the pattern they will form as one touches the other, touches the other, touches the other. So my life was touched by an incredible woman who showed me that I was worthy, that I was intelligent, that I could have a life beyond the torment that could be clean, healthy, and satisfying. Had it not been for Mother Aquinas, I think that I may have been lost. But she cared, she helped, she saved me: me – not a statistic, not a number – me. Years later I adopted a little boy born with cleft lip and palate and was able to give him the love and support I didn’t have. I’m not sure that I would be the mother I am today had it not been for Mother Aquinas, now Sister Helen Marie. She helped me break the circle of abuse by helping me. Helping me, the individual, the battle torn.
I am not a statistic. I have a name. I have a face. I have a soul. I am a veteran of child abuse.