On that afternoon when I sprawled on the floor of my office, painting pictures with two little girls, I thought about what is REAL in their young lives.
….the angry words and slamming doors that wake them in the night
….the bruises on their Mama’s face and the sadness in her eyes
….the love they so desperately need that isn’t freely given, or given at a price
….the fear that tomorrow will mean another move, a different school, a brother or sister left behind
….the knowing too much too soon, and the possibility of a future that’s a repeat of their present
Children — like these little ones brought by their mother to the domestic violence agency where I work and volunteer — are the innocent victims of grown-ups’ bad choices. By no fault of their own, they bear scars they will carry for their rest of their lives.
For these 31 days of October, we work to create awareness of Domestic Violence. For every day of their young existence, these girls and other children like them live it. They live the statistics that confirm violence in the home is a problem — yes, even in our rural Midwestern community. Statistics like these:
- One woman is abused every 9 seconds.
- 1 out of every 3 women suffers abuse of some form.
- 87% of domestic violence is witnessed by children in the home.
- 40% of those children suffer from anxiety, 48% from depression.
- Men who as children witnessed their parents’ domestic violence are 6 times more likely to abuse their wives than sons of non-violent parents.
Last week, after I shared these truths and more with those gathered in support of Domestic Violence Awareness, a woman who bears the scars of her parents’ broken lives bravely shared her heart.
April Maley was nine years old when her father killed her mother. After years of abuse, some of it directed at her, he did what he had been threatening to do for some time. He beat her mother, then shot her. And then he pointed the gun at his little girl and told her he hated her.
As April read to us from her own account of that horrible event, her voice choked with memories that were as fresh for her as the day she tried to wipe the blood from her dying mother’s face.
She recounted the angry words and threats hurled at her by the father she had tried to love, and her heart broke all over again.
And we who sat at tables listening, fell silent. We were reliving the terror with her.
“I went to her side and knelt. As I did, one breath released from her body. I realized years later that I was there when she took her last breath, and then she was gone.”
April tells her story of violence and abuse in her book “I Will Not Be Silent”. And when asked, she speaks the unspeakable so that violence in the home wears a face and becomes real to those who might help break the cycle.
Much healing has taken place in the three years since she wrote the book, says April. Her husband, children, family and friends support her as she travels around the country reliving the heartache of a little girl who suffered because of her parents’ choices. She says that maybe someday she will write another book — a book of redemption.
At the close of her book, April writes this:
“I am now walking with God, hand-in-hand, to finish this chapter of my life. I hope to be able to change lives for the better, even if it is only one person at a time. My goal is simple and strong: to show how the cycle of abuse doesn’t have to continue from generation to generation. Certainly I fell into the abyss along the way, but with God’s strength, I picked myself back up and am here to tell people that I’ve seen it from both sides. I had my own issues with abuse, alcohol, and the associated self-created messes, but I have also committed myself to a life of recovery.”
In support of April’s mission, and to help spread awareness of domestic violence, I am giving away an autographed copy of her book, “I Will Not Be Silent”.
Domestic violence must be stopped. Will you help create awareness — this month and every month?