Maybe Things Could Have Been Different

Some days I sit back and wonder, “What if my brother had been exposed to specific education that brought awareness to domestic violence, the traits of a healthy relationship, and how to thrive after being abused? Would things have turned out differently?”

In October 1987, a nine-year-old child was beaten by his father for jumping on the bed and told he was evil for “forcing” his sister to jump on the bed too. The little boy was also warned that if he told his mother—who was at school grading papers that Sunday—or anyone else about the beating he would be killed. The father did nothing to the sister who was also jumping on the bed. How do you think the little boy felt? How did his five-year-old sister feel witnessing this?

Between 1987 and 1989, my brother and I witnessed my father’s unimaginable emotional abuse targeting our mother. He hid her car keys just as she was leaving to teach at the local high school; took the starter off her car; accused her of having affairs; ripped jewelry from her neck; smashed food she had bought; poured milk on her; told her she was worthless and a bad mother; called her and my brother vile names; denied my brother and I a chance to go trick-or-treating; tortured our cat; burned my mother’s books; burned my Barbies and the Barbie clothes my grandmother had made me; smashed antiques my great-grandmother had given to my mother; ripped up our family photos; told my mother there were spies in the basement; shut off our hot water heater in the winter; ripped phone cords from the wall; refused to help pay for my brother to attend gifted camp; failed to pick up me and my brother from school or picked us up and hid us so my mother thought he had taken us.

It seemed unending. And while my father’s abuse primarily targeted my mother, it had far-reaching implications for my brother and me, too.

Again, “What if my brother had been exposed to specific education that brought awareness to domestic violence, the traits of a healthy relationship, and how to thrive after being abused? Would things have turned out differently?”

In January 1989, my mother conquered her fears and left her abuser, taking my brother and me with her, and one year later divorced my father.

But during those dark days of abuse, my brother expressed great doubt in our mother’s ability to get us out. And as he lost his confidence in her, he lost confidence in himself, too. His scars ran deep; deeper than anyone ever imagined. Even after we escaped, my brother could never rally long enough to see that you can prevail and thrive after being abused. Even though his mother was the PERFECT example!

Children are often the lost victims in an abusive household. Sadly, my brother was never exposed to education that brought awareness to domestic violence, the traits of healthy relationships, or how to thrive after being abused. He ended up following in his father’s foot-steps—calling my mother vile names, stealing her money, and trying to make her feel worthless, all so he could one day feel better about himself.

Then, on the evening of Tuesday, October 25, 2016, my brother murdered my mother, shot a family friend, and took his own life. After years of abuse at my father’s hands, I never fathomed that my mother would be taken from us so quickly and in such a heart-wrenching manner—and by her own son.

So today I sit here and wonder.

“What if my brother would have been exposed to specific education that brought awareness to domestic violence, the traits of a healthy relationship and how to thrive after being abused? Would things have turned out differently?”