When I was first asked if I’d like to do anything for Family Violence month, which is November, I felt uneasy. Even though I identify my father’s behaviour as abusive and I am able to recognize how it is affecting me I had never considered it to be family violence. Firstly my family didn’t look like the ones I had seen on tv or movies that were called violent. Secondly I was supposed to forgive my father because he had a troubled childhood. And Thirdly because of how frequently my father would have tantrums I let them blend into one long continuum to try and forget them easier.
No my dad never hit me, or my mom, or my sister. And that was my understanding of what violence was growing up. If he didn’t hit us, not including spanking, we weren’t being abused. My dad would even boast proudly, acknowledging his temper, that he had never hit his family. But the hole in a wall left from a door flung open REALLY hard, the sound of tires spinning outside as a truck sped off, or the threat that my sister and I were never too old to be spanked were leaving scares on me. And these incidents never happened just once, but all the time.
When I would confide in my mother that I was frustrated with all my dad’s yelling, that I thought he was being unreasonable, I was frequently encouraged to forgive my dad because he wasn’t brought up the way I was. It became my job to forgive my dad when he was angry at my mother because dinner was not warm enough, or that one dish at the table was too cold. I was told his mother was really hard on him growing up so I should be understanding of his rage and his supposed inability to understand his emotions. I remember days walking to school and praying fervently to acquire the ability to forgive my dad so that I would no longer be angry with him.
I have soo many stories, but inversely I have only a few. Because my father would get frustrated with dinner nearly every meal, dinner time has now blended into one long narrative. The amount of times doors were slammed shut and swung open have blended into the long narrative. The amount of times my father would chase down people in his vehicle because they had offended him have blended into one long narrative. To unravel the narratives is scary; I’ve built myself a safe home where I don’t have to worry about how my dad will respond to me.
So I did experience family violence growing up. I have a few memories were I can remember the exact scenario when my dad was yelling. But I mostly just have feelings. And when you consider violence, feelings aren’t considered concrete evidence.