By Jami Walker, See the Triumph Contributor
Innocence once lost, can never be regained. Darkness, once gazed upon, can never be lost.
– John Milton
My name is Jami Walker. Domestic violence is a complicated and difficult subject to understand. I personally know how strong the cycle of domestic violence can be. According to a study by UNICEF, “the single best predictor of whether children become perpetrators or victims of domestic abuse later in life is whether or not they grow up in a home where there is domestic violence.” My journey through the cycle of domestic abuse has 3 parts, my childhood experiences, my own domestic violence relationship, and my triumph over domestic abuse. Although my story has sad parts, it is not a sad story. It is about turning my physical and emotional wounds into wisdom, courage, hope, and triumph.
Let me start my story with my past as a child growing up in a home with domestic abuse. My biological father grew up watching his father abuse my grandmother and take a belt to my aunts and uncle any time he felt they were “out of line.” My father grew up in a household that taught him you control your wife and kids’ behavior through the threat of violence or actual physical violence. Unfortunately for my mom, this is what she endured for 19 years.
I can remember as a young child wishing and begging my mom to leave my dad. I hated watching him choke her and throw her through a window. I used to try to stand in between my parents to protect my mom, but my dad easily tossed me aside and continued with his abuse. I watched several times as my mom would cry to friends or family but never leave my dad. She tried to explain how difficult it would be to raise 3 kids on her income. We also lived in a state that would have allowed my dad to claim hardship if we moved away to Illinois.
Somehow my mom convinced my dad to move back to Illinois to be around my mom’s family. Once he was surrounded by her family, he stopped hitting her, but I became his new focus. In his mind, it was ok to shove or push me anytime he didn’t like how I was behaving. One time I was arguing with my mom in true teenage style. I knew it all and because I was not getting my way was throwing a tantrum. My dad came in to defend my mom. However, his idea of being on my mom’s side was throwing me into a closet where my back broke the dowel rod the clothes were hanging on. I remember thinking why didn’t my mom love me enough to take me away from someone who could hurt her and his own child.
During the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of high school, my dad and brother got into an argument over changing a light bulb. My brother was 18 and defended himself against my dad. Apparently this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. My mom decided to file for divorce and my dad moved out. She asked her lawyer for an order of protection. Unfortunately since it had been so long since he had harmed her directly the lawyer said it would be very difficult to get one. She decided she’d try to get one anyway. However, before the motion could be filed, one Sunday, my father waited until he assumed we had all went to church and set our house on fire. Luckily no one was home, but we lost every thing from our childhood; pictures, clothing, toys, and my sister’s hamster. Seeing the look on my 10 year old sister’s face as she realized the bones in the bottom of the cage were all that was left of her hamster still haunts me. Up until that point, my brother & I had shielded my sister from many of the horrors we had seen. She didn’t realize how mean my dad could be. I still remember what it felt like to see my sister’s face for the next several years and realize what it meant when people said a child’s innocence can be stolen and taken from them. I used to be jealous of her. She had a childhood sheltered from violence and evil that my brother and I didn’t have the privilege of sharing. After the fire, I realized how terrible it must have been to have your entire childhood ripped away in one quick sweep.
I remember going through the rest of high school thinking to myself I was the last person in the world who would ever end up with an abusive partner and stay.
I was 19 when I met my ex-husband, and it would be a long 3.5 years before I was free of his violence.