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Inside the mind of every child abuse victim, sometimes buried deep, lies a story gasping for air: By hearing and acknowledging each other’s stories we can find the courage to break free

Overwhelmed without choice

The voice I thought I had

Resounded only in my head

Controlled by another

One who is not me

But seems to be

Taken with reality

What voice I thought I had

Stripped from my throat

What remains is not mine

But Yours

Who are you?

Because you are not me

I would see, I would know

I try to speak

How I feel, what I think

But everything comes from you

I don’t want to do, see, feel that

And yet I do

Because I see what you see

I do what you do

Not only am I a puppet of society

But you hold the strings

Bounding my wrists, my mouth,

My life

Within the mind of every childhood abuse victim, there lies a story grasping for air, light and a voice. Many are stories that have been suppressed so far down that we try to pretend they did not happen, that the events did not change who we are. Maybe thoughts of denial and self-blame come into play as repetition often makes you believe or doubt instances of happiness as you continuously relive those negative thoughts and feelings. They creep into your mind, eating away at hopefulness and positivity. What is left is a shell, an empty corpse of self-deprecation.

Growing up, I had a hard time understanding and controlling my emotions as I often looked to my mother and mimicked her actions and reactions. I was always told how to feel and how to act. With each reaction, with every skill or talent that I believed I had, came a list: a list that outlined my wrongdoings. I was shadowed by my mother, crouching behind her as though I was a mouse. Our relationship was dark, and my drive in life was geared towards her wants and needs. I was constantly told I was not pretty enough, not good enough, not smart enough, and that I would not accomplish enough to be successful.

My younger sister and I had a rocky relationship due to the toxic environment at home. She refused to communicate and out of spite once took my dolls, removed the heads and painted them black. While I searched for love with her, she pushed me further away: “Don’t talk to me, don’t touch me,” she would scream, as memories flashed through our minds of our mother’s hand prints on our skin, the tingling, hair pulling, burning sensation of nails peeling away at our very existence. Leaving a black-and-blue, battered body of regret.

My father and sister eventually became my strength. My father encouraged family counselling in an attempt to save the family he loved so deeply.  We convinced our mother to come with us in hopes that a medical professional could convince her to change. But my mother declared that they did not know what they were talking about, and I became convinced that some people are not interested in seeking help, regardless of the pain on the faces of their family members. Even when therapists suggested to my dad that he needed to get us away from this life, the fear of her was strong and he continued to love her through the bad.

The bad could get ugly: it was a hostile and triggering environment that drove my sister and I to barricade ourselves in the bathroom, as it was the only door that would lock. The door would shake almost off the hinges as we shared silent looks, praying that she would not get through and that the red daggers in her eyes, and accompanying hits, would not land on us. Our father would return from work and question my mother’s anger as she screeched about our misbehaviour and tell him of the ungrateful children we were.

As I grew, I began to speak out about her treatment of my sister and father, about the verbal and physical abuse they endured, and how I thought I’d rather be on the receiving end than them. With my every word of rebuttal, she pointed those red daggers my way, spitting words of disgust and disapproval. But enough was enough: My dad finally announced he was leaving and taking my sister and me with him. To this day I do not regret a single decision. We did what was best for us. Sometimes it takes time to accept that you are in a toxic situation and that you do not deserve abuse in any way, shape or form.

My family – my sister and my father and I – have never been closer. We are enough. We are of value. And we are finally able to be ourselves.

It is because of experiences like mine that our silence must be broken. The doors in our minds must be opened so that we may have freedom. By hearing and acknowledging each other’s stories we may draw from that courage the shield we need to push through the obstacles and shatter the darkness. In that way, we can inspire others in their search for recovery and solace.

The red daggers

That once shot through me

Were not ones to define me

No message will change me

No list will guide me

What you say will not hurt me

Those daggers may haunt me

But surrounding me

Are people who love me

My shield will stay strong for me

Your daggers no longer pierce me

My body, my mind, my heart

Belongs to me

--Submitted by Lisa Dionne