Saturday, March 26, 2011


Skip to....later (same day) in my SHELTER Young Adult ms. Dad comes home in Dictator Mode and supper doesn't go well. Later, he goes nuts because Mom has the audacity to ask that she keep her paycheck instead of Dad taking it and giving her an "allowance." He hurts Mom and their little dog Moochie.

...And Miguel says...“Mom, your head is bleeding.” 

Dad straightens the rug at the front door. It’s a little crooked from Moochie’s landing. He pushes it around with his shoe until he’s satisfied it’s perfectly straight.

Then he looks at Mom. She wipes her fingers on her jeans, opens and closes her mouth a few times. “My head’s injured, Roberto, but I don’t think my jaw is broken. Last time, I nursed myself. Not this time. If I think I have a concussion, I’m going to the hospital.”

I can’t believe it. Mom is threatening him! If she goes to the hospital looking like she does, they’ll call the police. Then the cops will arrest Dad and someone will call the State.

That’s why Mom’s never gone to the hospital, not even when Dad broke her finger or dislocated her shoulder. She’s afraid they’ll put us in a foster home.

Dad nods like one of those stupid car toys. “Great idea, Mercedes. You know what’ll happen if you do that. Think you can pay the mortgage and car insurance with your lousy paycheck?”

Mom winces, presses her hand to her forehead. Probably has a bad headache like the last time he knocked her into a wall.

Ellie comes back with an icepack. “Mom, put this on your jaw. I’ll take care of Moochie.”

“Don’t you touch that damn mutt!” Dad yells and shoves Ellie so hard she slams into the corner of the coffee table. The table’s hard and heavy and she’s wearing shorts. I cringe when I hear the thud. Watch the scrape on one side of her knee turn wet and red.

Mom jumps between them and yells, “Robert, stop! Stop it! Look what you did to her!”

Dad is standing over Mom like he’s the lion and she’s the mouse, but he looks at Ellie. Sees blood running down her leg and a bruise forming below her knee.

His fists uncurl. He drops to the couch, stares at the TV.

Mom helps Ellie up, slips an arm around her waist. “Come on, honey. Let’s take care of your leg.” They head for the kitchen, Ellie limping, Mom pressing the ice bag on her jaw. I hear water running in the half bath and Ellie crying.

Can’t believe how bad Dad hurt Ellie. Usually, he just yells at us kids if we mess up. Then he grounds us or tortures us with sermons that go on and on until we feel like turds. But this time he hurt Ellie! He never hurts Ellie!

Who’s next—me?

...Here's the problem. If you live in a home with a batterer, everyone is a potential victim. Batterers are more likely to abuse their partner first and be a "good dad" to their kids. He demands a lot of them but they are easily intimidated and usually conform. In this way, he is often successful in convincing Mom and the kids that she is the problem. Look how nice he is to them!

Some kids figure out very early that his demands are unreasonable. When they are small, they're too scared to rebel. They try to protect Mom by helping her around the house. They try to do everything right, keep the secret, keep the peace. 

As the abuse escalates, some kids protect Mom more directly. They tell Dad to stop. They tell Mom and Dad to stop fighting. They step between them or let Dad know they think he's doing something wrong. Now they're in danger and emotional and physical abuse comes their way as well as Mom's. Or with older boys, they may imitate Dad. Now Mom has more than one abuser.

And that's often the straw that breaks...

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