For Domestic Violence Awareness month, we have asked Lynn Henderson Oldshue to return and share about her in depth research into Domestic Violence here in Mobile over the last several months. She and a guest will be sharing during worship on October 28th!
“You grew up in a glass house.”
My dad often tells me this about my childhood. He grew up with alcoholic parents, trying to step in when his dad hit his mother. He doesn’t share more than this so I didn’t understand what he saw or appreciate the cycle he broke when he refused to drink or abuse his own wife and kids. As strong as my dad was, there were some things he couldn’t protect me from.
When I was in fourth grade, we moved from the catfish farm to a house closer to Yazoo City. At the end of our road was Horse Hill, a barn that boarded horses. Heaven. I was 10 years old and all I wanted was a horse. I took riding lessons, and the friendly old man who cared for the barn let me help muck out the stalls and do other barn chores. One day he gave me a ride home and stopped before he got to my house. He pulled me close, forced me to kiss him and told me to use my tongue. He was 50 years older than me. Maybe 60 years older. Getting away and will never forget the shame I felt walking into my house to tell my parents something I really didn’t understand. My parents told him to keep his hands off me and I never went back to Horse Hill. We ran into him into restaurants around town, but didn’t talk about it again.
Interviewing domestic violence victims has forced me to look at the deepest cracks in my glass house, understanding that abuse happened in my family, and to me. I struggled with low self-esteem, a need for attention, and made a few bad decisions about men. The need for love, attention and protection were the same reasons victims gave for falling for their abuser. Needs every woman understands.
Admitting, accepting, and understanding doesn’t make domestic violence any easier to write about. The first day of September was supposed to be the day I started writing a series on domestic abuse for Lagniappe, but I wrote this essay, instead. Processing and procrastinating.
I am unsure how to begin writing about the secret crime that society still doesn’t want to acknowledge or hold men accountable for (the Urban Meyer controversy this week). Domestic abuse goes on behind closed doors in every neighborhood, from trailers and shacks to mansions and penthouses. All colors. All countries.
Not that long ago, victims were called battered women, abuse was considered chastisement and there were no legal protections.
I heard rationalizations, stereotypes, warnings and explanations.
“Out of sight, out of mind. Men will be men. Men were created to plant their seed in as many women as possible. Humans aren’t created for monogamy. She brought it on herself. She knows what bottoms to push to set him off. Keep it to yourself. Don’t embarrass this family.”