According to Domestic Violence Statistics (2011), at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Most often, the abuser is a member of her own family.
It's not easy to discuss domestic violence or sexual abuse. I know, because both of those happened to me, and for many years, self-blame and embarrassment kept me silent, hiding the abuse from those in my life. But now, as a victim, survivor and conqueror of these issues, I'm telling my story, hoping that it helps other people tell theirs.
My uncle began molesting me when I was 12-years-old, while caring for my ailing Grandmother, who was in a wheelchair. He would touch me in ways no child should be touched, and then he create lies about me. He would say that I stole money or didn't do my chores. He found any way that he could to somehow make whatever he was doing my fault. No matter how many times I tried to tell my parents what was going on, they didn't believe me.
Even worse, my mother, who, I now realize was descending into mental illness, would punish me for the things my uncle would say about me. From the time I was 12 until I was 20, my mother would beat me horribly. It wasn't just a smack in the face. She would take my dad's belt and whip me on my back to the point where I could feel pain in the bones of my chest.
By the time I was 14, I was finally able to completely evade my uncle, but I couldn't completely stay away from my mother though, and our relationship just got worse as I got older. Once, when I was 16, my mother, holding a knife, first threatened to kill herself and then tried to attack me. I always walked on eggshells around her, knowing that I would always be blamed, always be beaten.
What does it do to a child when the people supposed to protect her fail to do that, and in fact, actively hurt her? For me, I stopped trying to get help from others. In fact, I began to keep silent about all I was enduring. Even when, as an older teen, I was drugged and date raped, I didn't tell anyone. I didn't tell anyone when I found out that as a result of that rape, I was pregnant, and I didn't tell anyone when I got a subsequent abortion. In fact, if you had asked me if I was abused as a child, I would have denied it.
That swallowed rage lasted for a long time, even as I got married and had my own children. However, that kind of pain cannot stay bottled up, and I first started describing some of what I had experienced as plots in three mythical fantasy novels that I wrote. Readers began to ask whether the situations I had described in fiction had really happened, and I had to figure out what to tell them.
About the same time, my 10 year-old son began to show episodes of rage, and I was afraid. I felt that as his mother, I shouldn't be afraid of my own son. But in reality, it was the little girl in me who wasn't able to deal with it as a child. How, I wondered, could I deal with a raging child if I was always afraid of the raging mother from my past?
In order to help my son get better, I realized I needed to completely heal my own emotional wounds, not just cover them up with denial. Eventually, I was able to talk with my husband and children about my past, and to my surprise, found tremendous acceptance and support. As I healed, and as my son healed, I realized that telling my story could help others who were still in pain—who thought no one would believe them, who knew what their family member was doing wasn't right, but didn't know how to make it stop.
In writing my memoir, Living with Rage: A Quest for Solace, I had to come face-to-face with and share my experiences. It was painful, but in doing this, I could no longer denying what had happened to me, and could finally, truly understand that this was not my fault.
Angelica Harris, author of Living with Rage: A Quest for Solace, is a victim, survivor, and now a conqueror of sexual and domestic abuse. By lending a voice to those who have been abused, Angelica increases awareness and support for those affected. Partnering with Amnesty International and the Institute on Violence, Abuse, and Trauma (IVAT), Center for the Women of New York (CWNY) Angelica is speaks and writes about these issues. Married for 31 years with two adult children, Angelica is also the author of three fantasy novels.