Many people of all ages, color, gender, race, and other distinguishing characteristics, have had their voices silenced, bodies abused and misused, and their life purpose redirected. I know what it feels like to be encaged by doubt, wondering if my voice will matter.
I was under 5 years old when I spoke up for my mother. Here are a few excerpts from my memoir, Bent Not Broken, to provide context to my early experience with abuse and the seeds of self-doubt.
“In 1975, shortly after my birth, my father revealed another side of himself to my mother. Whereas her father showered her with life principles and sweet treats, her husband, most days of the week, sprayed venom-laced words and thundering fists. Whereas her (my mother) father showered her with life principles and sweet treats, her husband, most days of the week, sprayed venom-laced words and thundering fists. For approximately four and ½ years, from age 19 to 23, my mother lived in fear, not knowing who her husband would be from day-to-day. “
After a few more paragraphs, I go on and write….
“Something prompted me to speak up for my mother one day. While riding in a car with my eldest brother and a female driver, I blurted the words, “daddy abuses mom.” I seemed to have broken her trance, for she looked at me out of the rearview mirror and asked, “what did you just say.” I sat up a little taller, and in a louder and more confident voice, I repeated, “daddy abuses mom.” Although she did not reply to my plea for help, I felt good about telling the truth. Later, I found out that the female driver was my father’s cousin, and we were on our way to the daycare she owned.
The next vivid scene I remember is sitting in the kitchen of our Memphis apartment with my back facing the front door, cautiously watching my father as he flailed his arms and hands yelling at me. He told me I had no business telling someone what was going on at home. For a few seconds, I turned inward, trying to make sense of it all. I returned, realizing abusing someone was wrong. My dad did not want to admit the truth. ”
Then… I write…..
“Before the age of five, I was tried and found guilty of advocating for my mother. At the time, I did not realize the oppressive and suppressive nature of fear. My father did not have to sentence me. I sentenced myself with the prison bars of confusion and doubt.”
When I needed to speak up for myself, I thought I could handle the abuse without telling such a shameful secret. For years, I wanted to tell, but I didn’t know what the response would be. Still I day, I realized the power of my voice. Finally, my no meant something. And, I have had several experiences in which I used my voice to help others and my Self.
When we tell the truth, we turn the mirror towards the other person. Unfortunately, we cannot control their responses, but we can control ours.
If something doesn’t feel right, chances are, it’s not right. Listen to the small still voice inside. Then, tell someone you trust.
In honor of Women’s Health Month, may you always know …
Your feelings matter.
Your voice matters.
Your body matters.
Your health matters.
Your freedom matters.
To Your Best Life!
Your voice is still there and waiting for you to use it.