Sunday, November 27, 2016

Begetting Violence

When you're a child, you don't know any better.   We lived in a violent household, but thought that was normal. My father beat his children, and raped his daughters regularly.  When I was 10 years of age, I was hospitalized to repair the severe damages from one of the rapes.  Various forms of torture were also included.  For now, though, I'm just talking about the violence.
When your father beats you on a regular basis, you hate and fear it, but know that it is a part of life. It was also a large part of our continued underlying anxiety, growing up. Being punched, kicked, thrown against walls, having hair pulled, and subjected to spankings defined a painful part of our existence.  There was never a question of IF we would be beaten, but WHEN.  

The majority of the time, we didn't do anything wrong, so we couldn't really "prevent" being punished, or predict when our day would turn sour and terrifying.  The beatings were an excuse for our father to let off steam, so we became his little punching bags. 

Appropriate, I guess, considering that my father was once a Golden Gloves boxer.  We used to watch him box, back in the early-mid 1950s, on our little B&W t.v. set. Later on, we were made to watch the Monday and Friday Night Fights.  His Golden Gloves, meanwhile, retired to the big storage closet in the hallway.

There were other, more serious abuses through the years, but I don't want to go off-topic.  Meanwhile, my father's children all learned to box.  

We were made to put on the gloves, and spar, learning to jab with a left-hook, how to get that uppercut in when your opponent was off-guard, the cross punch, etc.  I guess this was to help us learn to protect ourselves - that could be a good thing. But what we really needed protection from was our FATHER.

In any event, we learned violence from the time we entered the world.  When the neighborhood kids would beat up on our siblings, Laurie & I would beat up the bullies.  Arlo later told me that I was doing him "no favors" when I would beat up the kids who beat him up.  It just earned him more derision, that he "...had to have his sisters defend him".  

 I used to get sucked into fights in grade school.  There was one notable fight in the school yard, where my opponent was at least a foot taller than me. As I was flailing away with my punches, he mostly just slapped me, and held me back.  I was too stupid to realize that he probably could have decked me with one punch, but since I was a girl, that might not look good for him.  As it was, a teacher broke up our fight, pretty much telling him that it was wrong to be fighting with a girl, and wasn't he ashamed of himself?  Since I was the one who said: "Call you down!" in a fit of rage, I felt slightly guilty that he was the one who was made to sit in the principle's office, and I was made to look like the victim. 

Rage.  I had a temper, with rage fueled by violence done to myself and my siblings.  
Hitting and punching were accepted forms of communication in our house.  Since I was the eldest of 9, I was the enforcer when one of the youngers complained about another sibling who was beating up on them. I had to then kick the offenders' butt: "Stop hitting Sue! If you do that again, I'll hit YOU!"    This usually worked on a short-term basis each time, until my brothers grew taller and stronger.  Big sister had to resort to other methods of "discipline".  Once, I was so upset with my brother Tom's bullying, that I threw a chicken at him that I was stuffing for dinner. 

Stuffing all over the floor - no harm done, but I had to revise my methods of keeping the "peace". 

"Peace" was the operative word beginning at age 14, when I spent a lot of time with my hippie friends.  The rules were changing, we didn't want to live as our parents did, etc.  Living in peace was a goal to achieve, though something not that simple for one who was raised in violence.  But I was willing to learn about PEACE & LOVE! 

I wasn't the only one who had trouble maintaining that philosophy.  During a peace rally in SF in 1967, as we were holding up our "Make Love, Not War" signs, one of the marchers turned to another, and started hitting him with him with his peace sign. They'd had some sort of philosophical disagreement.   True story.  The irony was not lost on the rest of us.  I heard one woman cry out: "Let's split this scene, Melissa - bad vibes!!!"  

I had a child when I was young, who, for the most part, was treated well (in my view), but there were a few times when in frustration, I hit her, and even used my fists on one occasion.
She was a teen, and arrived home hours late. No excuses, but I had been terrified. I fell back on what I had been taught, and castigated myself later - over and over - for my actions. 

The majority of the time, however, I turned my rage and frustration inward, resulting in panic attacks, phobias, and hypersensitivity. I was a lot of fun to be around!

I guess I shouldn't feel too bad - John Lennon himself was a violent man, before he preached "Love, Not War".  He wrote songs about threatening to kill his girlfriend, if she "looked at another man".  But then, he met Yoko.

 It's tough finding that middle ground, in real life.  Few of us are Gandhi or Mother Teresa.....but we can learn...can't we?


  1. Only one comment: I was never taught how to box. I was on the "tail end" of the children, and did not participate in the boxing thing.

    1. Yes, you "tail end" kids had other challenges. I can only speak for myself, and how we older kids were treated. I guess this is why I wanted input from what you "kids" remember, too. Eh...not everyone needs to rehash their past! Thank you for the comment! :)

  2. I have written this blog three times now and deleted twice. I felt I had written too much and exposed more than I was even ready to deal with. We realize we do suppress things and that makes it hard to feel it again as we write about what memories come to the surface , especially about a violent childhood, yes I said it "A Violent Childhood". Mine was caused by alcohol that brought about weekly verbal and physical fights between parents along with our own regular beatings, spankings but the berating of my mother hurt the most looking back... What way for a girl grow up. We learned back in those days to protect the family. it was an unwritten rule that we did not talk about what happened behind the closed doors of the family and never shared with the outside world, even with our best friends. We were clever kids though. We thought of ways to maneuver our parents away from those things that caused the fighting and arguments (didn't always work and if it did it only prolonged the inevitable) .We hid the bottles, invited friends over-anything to control the outcome by resetting the stage. Sometimes it worked . I came away with many issues such low self esteem and the expectation that violence might be a part of my future relationships. I was happy to find out that not everyone was raised the way I was and I was able to overcome my low expectations of what a future relationship might be like for me. There is more to say for menthes subject but this is enough for now. I eventually aged to find someone who gave me hope, love and a better life.

    1. I know that it is difficult to come out about your abuses publicly. You are not sure how this information will be taken. We were taught keep it to ourselves, to hush it up. I was threatened with death if I ever told anyone about the rapes(not mentioned in this blog - that was another subject in itself). I was not believed, especially when I was a child. The 50s-60s were not a time of exposure. When I first came out in the 70s about the rapes and other abuses that I had gone through (I was hospitalized at 10 years of age after sustaining internal injuries from one of the rapes), I knew that I could keep it quiet no longer. If we all stay quiet, the abuse can continue. Though my 6 brothers were also beaten, they did not believe that my sisters and I were raped. Since my father always made us strip naked to have 20-30 whacks delivered by sticks, why was rape such a stretch? But they couldn't think that of my father...anything but that! So, they chose to believe that I was lying, since my father told them that I was a liar (I was the only one who came out about ANY of the abuses, once I reached adulthood). I got my medical report from the hospital, and made copies of that, along with my father's letter to me confessing what he had done (in response to an angry letter I had written to him), and sent that off to my mother and siblings. My mother was the alcoholic, so that was part of the reason she looked away when my father was abusing us. In any event, (I'm writing another blog here), exposing this is the best thing we can do. We thought we were the only ones, but as it turned out, I found others whom I had grown up with, who went through similar experiences. I THANK YOU for having the courage to respond to my blog with your own story. I am happy that you have found a better life for yourself, and learned to not repeat what you had been taught. :)