Trigger warning for Hurts Me More Than You series: posts in this series may include detailed descriptions of corporal punishment and physical abuse and violence towards children.
My first memory is of being spanked.
For real, I can remember my parents lining my older brothers up for one at a time spankings and then debating whether or not I was old enough be spanked as well. They finally decided that yes I was and I was subsequently lifted me out of my crib (yes, my crib) and spanked me with a leather belt. I remember crying so hard I couldn’t breathe, and then being told that if I didn’t quit I would be spanked again.
To be honest that is one of the better memories I have of “spankings.” In our house any object could be used for discipline, a particular favorite one was the wooden spoon, but my mother broke so many of those on us that she had to upgrade to a thick soup spoon. She also broke several of those on us. For a while she kept a horse whip in the house and pulled it out for behaviours she considered particularly offensive.
The spankings usually came from my mother and usually had a predictable pattern.
1. Something would enrage her, I’m not talking normal parental upset or disappointment. I’m talking 0 to 60 in .2 seconds rage. There was never any rhyme or reason to her anger. It could be something as small as the dishes not being done, even if we hadn’t been told to do them.
2. She would begin the search for something to spank us with, anything at all, a wooden spoon, a belt, a fly swatter.
3. If something wasn’t immediately available she would throw things at us in the interim, once again anything would do, erasers, tape dispenser, kitchen implements, newspapers etc.
4. Once she located something she would spank random areas of your body until her anger subsided.
We lived in a constant state of fear, never knowing what was going to set her anger off. These beatings persisted into adult hood and only stopped when she finally passed away.
One particular instance I can recall she was sleeping in a recliner, snoring for about an hour with the radio blaring in the background. My older brother decided to turn the radio beside her off and she woke up in a rage. She threw the radio at him, then ripped the electric cord of the back and began to beat him with it. That instance stuck out in my mind because by then he was old enough to fight back and I very nearly called the police to stop the ensuing brawl. I wish now that I had called them. I also wish that I would have fought back when I became old enough, but I was too brain washed by the “good girl” image of femininity and submissiveness propagated at our local cult/church.
I remember another particularly brutal beating that my other brother received. He hadn’t paid enough attention during the two hour devotional that was forced on us that morning. When my mother reported this to my father he was taken to my parents’ bedroom and my father produced a belt and my mother produced her famous wooden soup spoon. The sounds that came from that room were atrocious, I walked down the hall and cracked the door open to see what was happening, he was sitting in the middle of their queen sized bed curled up in a ball crying with a parent and a discipline instrument on either side. I was told to “get out or I’d be next.” About fifteen minutes later my father emerged for water, he looked at me (about age 9) and asked “Does he really deserve this?” I was too scared to even talk to either parent so I shrugged my shoulders and made myself scarce.
For years I felt guilty because I hadn’t said “no, nobody deserves this.”
Until one day I realized that I was right, Nobody deserves this. No child deserves both his parents ganging up on him with a belt and a wooden soup spoon, and no nine year old child should be made responsible for such a beating, and no father should have to use his nine year old daughter’s opinion for a moral compass. No, nobody ever, ever, ever deserves that.
In the nineteen years that I lived with this behavior I was beaten with more things than I could ever name, including a metal dog leash and an iron rod and a horse whip. I can remember wearing thick black stockings to church to hide the bruises, I can remember hearing my parents say “I love you” and silently choking back sobs because there was no way I could ever believe them.
I was in my mid-twenties before I ever realized that my parents had physically abused me. I was spoon fed Focus on the Family episodes and the Pearls’ teachings on how parents who love their children beat them. As a child I looked with pity on children who were “spoiled brats” because they had thoughts and opinions all of their own and who “just needed a good spanking.” In fact I was married and telling my husband a story from my childhood when he pointed out to me that the story I was telling depicted abuse.
The funny thing is, I don’t really remember misbehaving as a child. I’m sure I was not perfect, but I was polite, respectful, and hard working. I virtually home schooled myself while simultaneously doing the bulk of the cooking, the laundry, the cleaning, volunteering in our church and over achieving at whatever extracurricular activity my parents chose for me. To some extent their abuse worked in that I was a “good girl,” the model daughter in fact.
I often wonder how my life would have been different if I would have gone to school.
Would someone have noticed the bruises? Would someone have told me the definition of abuse? Would I have had a friend to confide in? I remember at about the age of fifteen wanting to run away, but I couldn’t. I had no friends outside of our church/cult and no money to support myself with. Maybe the abuse would have stopped at fifteen.
As an adult my father frequently tries to guilt trip me into stopping by and calling more often, but I don’t think I ever will. Even though the bulk of the lashings came from my mother there were definitely some inappropriate episodes of discipline from him too. I still can’t believe that any loving parent would stand by and allow their child to be treated like that, even one time, let alone systematically. The only conclusion that a reasonable person can draw is plain and simple, they didn’t love me, they never will, for all practical purposes I consider myself an orphan.
As an adult I’m scared to turn into the monster that my mother was.
But mainly I’m just angry, angry that the people who were supposed to love me beat me and treated me like a slave, angry that anyone would treat any child in that way. I want to go spit on my mother’s grave; I want to stand over her wielding an iron rod and screaming in her face. I’m tempted to self-destroy my life just to show my parents how badly the messed up raising me (Although that would be pointless because my brothers are doing that for me.) I struggle with relationships, I reached my late twenties before I ever asserted myself, and I’m scared of conflict, scared of authority, scared of everything. I struggle with depression and guilt and anxiety, and occasionally have suicidal thoughts.
But at least I’m not a spoiled brat, right? At least I was a “good girl.”