Not all abusive relationships are with intimate partners. Some happen between co-workers, friends, or siblings. And then there are the ones between parent and child. When we think about child abuse, we often think about the children that are beat, locked in closets, and starved. Verbal abuse is the most prevalent type of abuse, and it takes place without being recognized. Tonight we share one such story with you from the perspective of a teenager, who for safety purposes, wishes to remain anonymous. The first key to overcoming manipulation and verbal abuse is to recognize that it’s taking place. Here is a piece of her journey. . .
One blow after another shot straight into my chest and mind. I will admit, I wasn’t prepared at all. The words I had gathered up to say had all been blown to smithereens, leaving me hopeless, confused, and lost. I had been preparing the things to tell him the entire ride here, staring out the car window at the trees that blurred by. However, now my brain’s gears had stopped grinding, and I was left speechless. His refusal to let me speak my mind was like a rope keeping my thoughts and opinions at bay. My father always had to have things his way, and he had such a manipulative way of talking it was hard not to give in to his will. The conversations I had with him were like the most intense battle I had ever seen, and I lost every time. I don’t know if it was because of fear, if my game plans weren’t good enough, or if I just didn’t have the will to speak louder than before.
I guess I need to start from the beginning. My parents divorced when I was twelve, and I wasn’t that surprised or hurt by it. They had been arguing all my life, and I never saw my father much, because he was always away, either at work or in his room. Life hustled on like always, and I just went with it, going wherever the winds of fate blew me. However, I didn’t really agree with how my father decided to live his life. He had been smoking since he was in the army, which was when he was around eighteen or nineteen. I had tried to get him to quit for so long, and those turned into miniscule arguments on their own. The point was, when I tried to tell him my opinions, he always shrugged it off with a look on his face that said, “I’m always right, and nothing you say will contradict that.” I never wanted to feel that ashamed again, I was frightened of that feeling of error. I hated it, the feeling of a scorching face as covered lies were thrown at me. Even though they weren’t the truth, the way he twisted it around made it feel like they were. I wanted to speak back, but I couldn’t make out the words. I was too afraid of that feeling, but little did I know, he was too.
One heated argument has really stood out to me. It happened a few years ago, when I had just turned thirteen. I was in my father’s apartment. It was an extremely small basement apartment, with only two rooms and one bathroom. It had a tiny kitchen, which did not have an oven, and the microwave gave off a wretched smell when we used it. I was sitting on the ragged green couch in our living room when I got a text from my mother. I didn’t know that this small text would be the cause of my horrible embarrassment later on. The text read, “How are you guys doing? What are you up to?”
I answered truthfully, “We’re not really doing anything, Dad’s in his room asleep.”
She answered me back, “Okay, well, text me if you need anything.”
Little did I know, my mom was going to get on to my father about how he was asleep, when he should be spending what little time he had with us. I was on my phone for a little bit longer when my father stormed into the living room. He looked tired, but extremely frustrated and upset.
“Jenny! Why did I just get a text from your mother telling me I should be a better father?” He bellowed.
“I-I just told her that you were asleep . . .” I stammered. His glare was putting me in the position of a mouse trapped by a cat.
“You don’t need to tell her anything!”
I opened my mouth to say something, but he kept talking.
“This isn’t her house! She isn’t here anymore! You don’t have to tell her every little thing we do!”
“I’m really sorry, I didn’t think she would get that mad . . .” I apologized. He didn’t pay my apology any attention, and just kept ranting.
He shouted more and more, for what seemed like hours. I wasn’t really listening through half of it. Instead, I was hugging my pillow, trying to hide my tears. I tried blocking him out, pleading in my mind for him to just stop already. I understood, I was sorry, and I wanted it to end so I could go back to doing whatever I was doing before I got that stupid text! I tuned in a little bit to what he was saying now.
“I might just have you leave your phone at your mother’s house so you can’t contact her at all!” My father was threatening.
I felt outraged. That wasn’t fair at all! My cheeks felt like they were burning, but I couldn’t think of a word to say that he wouldn’t contradict. I racked my mind for any kind of phrase or sentence that might hit home to him. What if I told him it was unfair? No, he’d probably just say that telling Mom everything we’re doing is unfair. Thoughts of things to tell him raced through my mind, only to be shot down by my other ones. The result ended with me not saying anything. I just sat there, vulnerable, like a sitting duck. Speechless.
Eventually, his rant died down, and it was quiet. It was a horrible, awkward silence. I had so much to say, but I hid it, and he had run out of things to say. We kind of sat in that silence for a little while, until he just walked away. Leaving me alone to my thoughts.
Time passed and I was still on the couch, my face a little pink from the crying. My dad walked in, and tried to apologize. I forgave him, of course, because he’s my dad, and I love him. I know he loves me too, he just, has his days. I don’t think he’ll ever really understand my feelings, because I don’t think I’ll ever have the guts to tell him. I know, deep down, that I’m going to have to tell him eventually. However, I don’t think that time is now. I have told myself over and over, I’m just waiting for the right moment.
Well, I think that moment might be soon, really soon, but I might need a little more time to think about what I’m going to say.