By: Holly Bonner, MPA, MSW, CASAC
Director of Education and Training, IlluminArt Productions
As I write this, both of you are still in diapers. Your world revolves around naptime and animals crackers. Your dreams are filled with fairy dust and princess dresses. I love your innocence and treasure it. Mommy loves you both more than words could ever say. I do my best each and every day to keep you safe, but there will be a time where I must hand over that responsibility directly to you. It’s a scary proposition, but it’s part of life.
I want you to know your mommy isn’t perfect. I’ve made many mistakes throughout my life. I could choose to withhold these mistakes from you and in doing so, perhaps your opinion of me will remain somewhat untarnished. However, I believe as your mother; I owe it to you to be honest.
Your daddy was not my first love. When I was in high school, I met a boy who lit up my world. He was handsome and popular and he liked me, a lot. We became very close, very quickly. I wanted to be with him every second of every day. I began to distance myself from close friends, stopped participating in hobbies I had once enjoyed, and even began to treat my family badly. In retrospect, I guess I should have sensed something was wrong with my new love interest, but his good looks and charm were spellbinding.
The honeymoon phase of our relationship soon ended and we began to fight, mostly over the fact that I had a part time job, which he wanted me to quit. It was during one of these heated arguments that my prince charming became so enraged; he punched his fist through the front door of his family’s apartment. I was absolutely paralyzed with fear by his reaction. I had never seen someone become so angry over something that seemed so insignificant. He told me it was my fault that he had gotten so angry and I needed to “be better.” The fear of losing him consumed me, so I made every attempt to keep him happy. It was barely a week later when after another argument, your mommy became the door, and I was hit for the first time.
I wish I could tell you that I was brave and that I asked for help, but I didn’t. I stayed in the relationship. I became an expert make-up artist, covering up bruises like a professional cosmetologist. I began to lose weight from the stress of the violence, but I never talked about it to my teachers or friends. When your grandparents finally confronted me about what they thought was going on, I denied it and continued to see him.
Why? Why did mommy stay with someone who hurt her? The answer is simple, because mommy believed she didn’t deserve any better and no one else would ever love or want her. It may seem like a simple answer, but it’s one that is very common for women who have experienced domestic violence. My beautiful girls, I don’t want you to ever experience what mommy went through. Domestic violence is a serious issue. You need to know:
1) Domestic Violence Is Not Only Physical: During my relationship I was as equally emotionally abused as I was physically. In addition, most of the money I made from part time jobs went directly to my abuser. He controlled me physically, emotionally and financially.
2) Domestic Violence Is Common: When I finally did get help, I discovered many of my friends in high school had shared similar experiences. None of them sought help and therefore none of the cases were reported to my high school. Domestic violence is more common than most people believe or want to believe. Whatever statistics are available are believed to be low because domestic violence is often not reported.
3) Domestic Violence Knows No Boundaries: Mommy was an honor student and considered one of the smartest girls, but domestic abuse happened to me. Abuse can happen to anyone! It can be directed at women, men, children, and even the elderly. Domestic violence crosses all race and class lines. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or where you went to school; no one is immune to violence.
5) It’s Not Easy To Leave: I tried several times to leave the relationship, but I always went back to my abuser after dramatic apologies or receiving flowers. Victims of domestic violence often feel pressure or shame to stay in a relationship. Relationships are complicated and it’s never as simple as fighting back or walking out the door.
6) Victims Are Victims: After almost two years of abuse, a family friend and therapist intervened, helping me to understand the abuse had never been my fault. Using the legal system, I was able to leave the relationship and start the healing process. The abuser is always completely responsible for the abuse. No one can say or do anything that warrants being beaten and battered.
As you both become young women, know that you can come to me about anything. I may not have all the answers you need, but I will always be willing to listen to you with an open mind and an open heart. Remember that you are smart, kind and beautiful. Your father and I are doing our absolute best to raise you to be conscious participants in the world around you.
Every relationship that you will have in life will teach you something about yourself and prepare you for when you meet the person who you want to make a lifetime commitment to. I truly hope you find a partner in this world who will love and adore you the way I do. In the event you do encounter someone who mistreats or abuses you, remember what I have shared with you in this letter and know that you are braver than you think. Walk away. You, my girls, deserve all that is good in the world.