This article comes from an anonymous interview with a 17-year-old girl growing up in a home where domestic violence was a regular occurrence. Names have been changed.
November is Family Violence Prevention Month.
Many women and children suffer in silence but between April and October approximately 228 others are helped through the resources of the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter, which can be reached at 403-346-5643.
Rachelle is almost 17 years old. She lives with her mother and her younger sister, and by all outwards appearances, is a normal, happy, healthy teen.
But years of abuse at the hands of her step-dad, and living in a home where domestic violence happened all too often, has left her anxious, suffering from chronic migraines, insomnia and with severe trust issues.
“I still to this day get very bad anxiety and severe lung pain when I get stressed out. All my stress and worrying resulted in insomnia. This also came from the abuse side of things.”
Rachelle’s said her first memory of her stepfather abusing her mother was when she was four years old.
“I remember waking up in the middle of the night to a lot of yelling and screaming from both parents. When I opened my door everything became so loud, between the sobs and scream of my mother to the deep, growling yell of my step-dad. I walked down the hallway and stood at the top of the staircase and watched my mom get thrown into coat hooks in the entry way.”
Rachelle’s young face suddenly takes on a look older than her years as she recalls the years of abuse.
“My parents fought every day. They would argue over the smallest little things and then those fights would turn into huge screaming fests.”
The instances where abuse raised its ugly head happened all too often.
“One day I was asked to clean the room that my sister and myself shared. I had been cleaning all morning and was not allowed out of the room until it was finished.”
Rachelle’s mom agreed to give her daughter a break from cleaning and allowed her to come out of her room to have some lunch.
Rachelle’s stepfather was furious at his wife for usurping his authority.
“At one point I remember standing in front of my mom, arms spread out screaming at him, telling him to stop yelling at her and to leave her alone. I was only around six years old at the time.”
Her step-dad physically abused not only her mother.
“One night I would not go to sleep, so he decided to spank me. This wasn’t just a regular spank, he took a plastic spoon and he spanked me so hard that it broke across my butt. I was about seven that time. He would always threaten to spank me so hard so that I could not walk or sit down for a week.”
To say Rachelle’s step-dad was a control freak was an understatement.
The girls were forced to eat all food put in front of them, even if it took hours and they had to choke it down.
“It was almost like we were hating him if we didn’t eat his food,” said Rachelle. “He always took things to the extreme and over-reacted.”
Clothes and shoes could not be purchased without his approval.
“If my mom bought a pair of shoes for me or my sister and he did not like them he would freak out and yell and scream at us to take them back.
“I was never allowed to wear makeup.
“Even when we moved out, I could not wear any makeup in my school pictures because he would see them. If he saw that I had makeup on he would call or come to our house and get angry and say how I am disrespecting him.”
As much as the physical and mental abuse was ongoing and difficult to bear, sadly, that was not the worst of the situation.
“Through all of this he was also sexually abusing me from the time I was three to 13. I never said anything, especially to my mom, because she was always under so much stress and wouldn’t have been able to handle the anxiety that came with finding out about it. And I was embarrassed and thought that it was completely normal. As I got older I realized the things he was making me do were wrong.”
Rachelle finally told her story of being sexually abused in November of 2010, encouraging other girls who are in the same situation to speak up, because silence is not the answer.
She knows it’s difficult.
“I usually keep my problems to myself. I don’t want to drag others down with my issues and also don’t want to be judged by my problems.”
Rachelle, who admits she is still a people pleaser, realizes living in a home where domestic violence ran rampant, has left her with emotional scars.
She still has test anxiety and suffers from chronic migraines.
But, her world is more stable.
“Now it’s not as bad; my mom and I get along better. And I go for counselling and that helps.”
Rachelle still views relationships with boys with trepidation.
“I still have trust issues,” she said.