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A childhood steeped in hatred and abuse can threaten to break us.

And yet, we go on:

I was six months old when I was beaten the first time.

This beating required an Emergency Room visit. When you are beaten from such a young age, you learn that your body has no boundaries, you are not entitled to safety.

I was molested before six years old, my mother witnessed this at bath times…and did nothing. I was raped from six to eight years of age. Mom reminds me, regularly, that she was a victim, too. Therefore, I do not have permission to blame her for these things.

Back then, violence was a multiple days a week occurrence. Dad was quiet most of the time. And then, without rhyme or reason that I could detect (and I tried to identify the cause, to stop it), BLAM! Heaven forbid we did a normal kid thing that was bad.

Nighttime was parent fighting time. From my bed, I could hear the screaming, Mom crying. I could hear bodies tumbling and grunting, from him reaching for her and hitting her. He would rape her. He would break furniture on her.

By the time I was six until I was eight, he stayed in the guest room on a frequent basis. EVERY night he was in that room, I was too. I got to hear graphic details of Vietnam, before the touching and raping.

When Dad moved into his own home, this decreased to weekends.

But then Mom started. She was depressed and suicidal. She couldn’t handle our noise, our needs, or even us asking for permission to do things. She would strike out, smack us with books, knock our knees with her foot, pushing us away in frustration.

When our bodies were dirty, she would bathe us. She washed my vagina so hard, her nails or the edge of the washcloth would leave slices in my labia. She would pinch between my toes, hard enough to hurt. We had to “get the dirt out.”

Dad ran off when I was eight. Counselors had identified that I was suicidal; what he had done to me. He was confronted and fled to avoid prosecution.

By the time I was nine, Mom had started studying the Holocaust. We were made to watch documentaries with gruesome footage of violence. We had to see pictures of the piles of dead bodies.

We went to museums to meet Holocaust survivors, to hear their stories. The same graphic documentary pictures were always hanging on of the walls.

There were never other children to find, to play. We had to stay by Mom’s side, to witness these things.

We were not permitted anger, or to be sad. No tears, no screaming. We could smile. Or, we could be quiet.

When encouraged, we could explore mud puddles or play on the beach and laugh and giggle with Mom. There were the good times.

We’d always been very poor – with Dad around we were poor, but always had food. After he left, we’d have times of hunger. No food, or too little. I would dish out more to my sister first. Then Mom. Sometimes, I would sacrifice my food so that they could get more. I had become the family cook by the time I was nine. I cleaned. I helped with my sister’s homework. I helped with Mom’s college homework. I was an A-student on my own studies.

Mom used a wooden spoon to spank us. She hit so hard, she would crack handles. We had bruises and welts in the perfect shape of a spoon head on our bottoms and thighs. Sitting in a wooden chair at school was uncomfortable.

When she smacked our heads with her open hand, she would hit our ears. The ringing would startle me.

Her verbal abuse was astounding, sharp and biting. She told me that I was so annoying that it drove her to drink. (Subtext: Daddy was an alcoholic because of you, and I drink because of you too.)

All of these things struggled to silence me, shame me, and remove my human dignity. All of these things demonstrated that I had no rights.

And yet, I persist.