Reproduced with kind permission of Poppet's Imagination Captivation .
The author of the web and the Author of the non-fiction story that follows have both graciously consented to me reproducing the following.
"I want you to remember that people who lived through abuse and then try to tell you what happened to them do two things: They disassociate themselves from the tale – often speaking about it in the third person to distance themselves emotionally from the trauma : and 2: They often forget to tell you how it felt – and why this was such a big deal. It’s a mammoth ordeal for them to engage in the tale – yet despite this they usually cry the whole way through telling it – because it still hurts so much – but this doesn’t come across on the page – because it’s easier for them to give you a sequence of events of what happened – but the fear – the endless sleepless nights, the – never sleeping soundly because you’re afraid of waking up in a war zone and you’re in the direct line of fire – the tension that makes food digestion difficult, the nausea the minute voices start to rise – years of sleep deprivation and constant tension break you – it’s like being in a concentration camp and you have only one hope of survival – do what you’re told – don’t fight back – when you do – they want to kill you."
Please remember this as you read Dianne’s story – and know there are a lot of blanks she’s left out – because she isn’t yet emotionally able to share them with you.
Dianne – these weren’t your choices to make – but you had to live with them. Taking back your life – by telling people what happened to you – finally removes the last barrier – the barrier of silence. Thank you for being so brave and I hope your healing is easier from hereon out. xx
My Granny sat me down when I was about sixteen years old and explained that when I was born I was immediately given up for adoption. My mom was only 19 years old and in those days, having children out of wedlock was frowned upon.
This is where my story begins to have two stories.
I am not sure how accurate it is but she explained that I was at Cotlands Children’s Home for about three months, when my grandfather “could no longer take it” and went to fetch me. According to her, they would visit me on Sunday’s, and when they arrived one Sunday I had burn marks on my face. This is what made him decide to bring me home.
My mom explained that she was under a large amount of pressure from my grandparents. After three months at Cotlands she decided that I was her responsibility and brought me home.
Living with my grandparents was great. Gramps would take me to buy veggies on alternate Saturday mornings. I was allowed to choose one type of fruit, he would buy a whole box and they were labelled as “mine”. We would then go to Checkers where he would buy his cigarettes and I would get a box of Sugus. It’s moments like these that I try to concentrate on – when the bad ones start to filter through.
On the Saturdays that he would be at work, my Aunt would come by early so we could go shopping. My Gran couldn’t drive, so this was an outing for her too. We would buy “something nice” to have for tea when we arrived home. I would always choose a jam doughnut. There is something about that sugary coating and the gooey apricot jam ooze in the middle that was just delightful.
When I started school my aunt would arrive early at our home to take me to school. Our home was only two blocks away from the Nursery and Primary School, so my Gran would walk up to my school in the afternoon to fetch me. She would point flowers and acorns on the path and it would make the time go faster.
I loved both my grandparents dearly but poor Granny was only good enough when Gramps wasn’t around. There was that special something about him that made him fun. He would do funny things, play games, (no matter how silly they were) and when I got older his stories of yesteryear would have me engrossed for hours. He would tuck my blankets in very tight at night and sing “Had Gad yo” to me at bed time. Some nights he would sit for what seemed to be hours singing until I would finally fall asleep. He was my hero.
*Had Gad Yo is a Hebrew rhyme that is usually sung at the Seder table to keep the children’s interest to the end of the Seder which is a very long meal.
HAD GAD YO
An only kid
An only kid
My father bought
for two Zuzim
An only kid
An only kid…
Had gad yo, Had gad yo di z’van ab-bo bis re zu ze had gad yo, Had gad yo.
Granny had her own hobbies and in the school holidays I would accompany her at her Bible study classes, or a visit to one of her many friends in the neighbourhood. She would take me to swim at the sports grounds across the road and would do puzzles and play games. She was more of a disciplinarian than Gramps, although he wouldn’t tolerate it if I was “out of hand”.
I realised today that I don’t remember much about my life with my mom during my first few years. The only memory I have is that I woke up really early one Christmas, very excited to open my presents, and to give my mom the bottle of “You’re the Fire” perfume that I had “bought” for her. She cuddled up in bed with me until it was time to wake up. Again, I seem to have more memories of Granny getting everyone together to bake a Christmas Cake and various other Christmas goodies. She really made that time of the year so exciting.
My mom met my step father when I was six years old. I was afraid of him from the start. I remember him visiting one Saturday and giving me “the evil eye” because I wasn’t happy that he was monopolising all of my mother’s time. This “evil eye” was a terrible thing. It was a look that had lasers that would tear into your soul and frighten the living hell out of you. You knew that something bad was going to happen after one of these looks. With my heart pounding so much that my ears were ringing, I ran as fast as I could to Granny and Gramps who were sitting on the veranda. By then he had raced to the front door and was continuing his death ray stare. I was shaking so much I could hardly breathe, but I stood next to granny, telling her about what Gramps said we would be doing on the following weekend.
I remember overhearing my grandparents telling my mom that they didn’t approve of her relationship or the way he dealt with me. I then have a memory of him holding Gramps by the collar, threatening him that he would never see me again if he continued to disapprove of my mom’s relationship with him.
My mom and I moved to a flat in Berea shortly after that.
My time line of living in Berea is muddled. I can’t seem to remember what happened before my mom got married and what happened after.
It was a difficult move for me. Although I still went to the same school – my mom would drop me off at my grandparents’ house in the morning, my Aunt would take me to school and Granny would still fetch me from school in the afternoons – everything else had changed. I experienced my first ever beating of a hiding for not being able to fall asleep.
I know now, being a mother now myself – that this experience, of uprooting a child’s life is extremely distressing. Children find moving in general difficult, having to deal with these added extras of abuse and constant arguing is clearly not an ideal situation. From being treated like a little princess, I was now being treated like I didn’t matter at all.
I don’t remember my mom’s beatings from my step father at this stage. I think I blocked them out. I remember a lot of door slamming, tears from both my mom and myself, my mom would wear her dark glasses more often and my unbearable beatings. It may have been on my bottom, but hell he was strong. He beat a guy up for parking my mom in the one night. The fight continued after he was hit over the head with a pick axe handle, and the blood was pouring from his head.
One night I remember telling my mom that I had a headache. I used to get the most incredible headaches. My head would pound and I would get so horribly nauseous that I wouldn’t move. I remember being told “CHILDREN DON’T GET HEADACHES!” Later that evening my mom went into the kitchen and put ten Disprin into a glass. I remember counting them. She left the glass on the counter and walked out of the kitchen. Before she returned, I had already downed the glass of dissolved tablets, thinking it was for me. I remember being scolded by my mom but I can’t remember anything after that.
My uncle collected me at my grandparents’ house one night and joined my mom and I for dinner. I imagine that he was there to talk her out of marrying my stepfather. If that was the plan it never worked. It probably made her even more determined to marry him.
A couple of months after their wedding, we moved to Princes Avenue Windsor. I was seven or eight years old now. Things got even worse for me here. Some nights my mom and step father would cook dinner together. I would be called into the kitchen to stir sauces on those nights. The stove was next to the door. I would get tired of standing and stirring the sauce, so I would lean on the door.
On this particular night he hit me so hard that I landed on the floor in front of the stove. He then started to kick me at least six or seven times.
The next day I told my Gran about what had happened.
My Gran must have said something to my mom because when I got home I received another beating.”YOU DON’T TELL YOUR GRANDMOTHER WHAT HAPPENS IN MY HOUSE!” is all I got from my mother.
I really should have been removed from their care. I think my grandparents did nothing because they were also threatened. I’m not sure if they were aware of steps that they could take either, they never had to deal with anything like this before.
My trouble with sleep continued, my mom would wear her dark glasses more often and my step father’s ever increasing shouting tantrums at night which added to my problem with sleep.
One night I asked for the shouting to end. I received one of my step father’s famous lectures about how my mom was wrong and he had to set her straight. I remember asking him to speak to her and not shout, but that never worked. He thought that he was always right. The fight continued after my lecture and when I still couldn’t sleep I experienced yet another beating. When I was crying he’d yell at my mother “GO AND SHUT YOUR DAUGHTER UP!”.
As the years went on I learned to always have an answer for everything because he would always twist a situation to make himself look “right”. This has worked for me in some situations later in life and also worked against me. I still find that even today I’m always on the defensive and I don’t think that will ever work its way out of my system.
By this time I was so afraid to sleep at night that I would tuck my teddy right up against my back. The sweat would pour under my blanket but I felt more secure. I tend to over analyse everything and I realise now that I would tuck myself in so tight just to feel that security I had when Gramps would put me to sleep at night.
My step father had strange friends and a half brother that would visit only when he wanted something. My step Gran, a petite, “prim and proper” lady, would also visit but that would almost without fail end with her leaving in tears because of an argument.
He once decided to make his own beer. The stuff was so potent that after one mug of the stuff he was unable to stand up on his own. He invited his new buddy from the complex next door to us. Well, my mom and this guy’s wife had to literally carry the guy home after his mug of beer. At least on these nights we didn’t need to worry about being beaten or shouted at.
We lived across the road from the golf course and my step-father got to know the care taker whose house was also across the road. They used to drive around the course checking on security together. Then they would get horribly drunk at the club house and go home. We were luckier on some nights than others, but the fear was always there.
My Grandparents and Aunt would always buy me clothes and shoes. This included everything I needed for school including stationery. My step-father would get very angry when they bought me things. Once my Aunt bought me shoes and I refused to wear them at home. I hid them under my bed at my Grandparents home and wore them there. My Aunt told me the other day that she told my stepfather, that I was her niece and she would buy me shoes if she wanted to. I’m surprised that he never threatened her – or maybe he did and I just never knew about it.
One Saturday morning my step father was “cleaning” his gun. He shot a hole in the floor. It happened behind closed doors but I remember the fear I had inside that my mom had been hurt. I was only too happy to see my mom come into my room and tell me she was ok.
When I was eighteen I wanted to learn how to shoot a gun but my step father wouldn’t allow me to. It only dawned on me today that he probably thought I would end up killing him if I did. I think I would have – and sometimes wish that I did.
We moved again, this time to Viscounts Ave in Windsor. Shortly after we moved my mom fell pregnant. Things were ok. I can’t remember any incidents that took place while she was pregnant.
My Grandparents would take me out pretty often and I would go on holidays with them to the Cape.
When my brother was born my chore load got bigger. I would have to see that dinner was made, so that my mom could feed the little bundle. They would also leave me to look after him on my own while they went shopping. It felt like they took hours to return. I would wrap my baby brother tightly in his blanket, his crying would eventually stop and he would fall asleep with red eyes and a crying hiccup. I was taught how to make a bottle and taught myself when to change and bath him. My mom would come home to a fed and bathed little bundle smelling of baby powder. I think that this is what caused me to argue with my brother when he was older. I was jealous that he had some kind of a childhood while I had to grow up very fast.
My step father’s tantrums weren’t always hidden from friends. Shortly before my brother was born I became very close to a friend at school. I would spend most weekends with her family. On one of the weekends she spent with me my step father started one of his night time tantrums. He was shouting at my mom again. I honestly can’t remember what sparked it but the next thing I knew he was trying to give me a beating. I tried to get away but ended up in a choke hold being strangled. My friend was probably petrified that she would be next. I remember consoling her afterwards; I was so scared that I wouldn’t have my friend visit any more. I would rather have her feel at ease and have a friend, than be alone and be consoled myself. We are still friends today, and it’s one of the relationships that I am most thankful for. It has only been in the last couple of years that I have felt safe enough to let her hug me or hold my hand in a caring way. Someone so wonderful, and I have unconsciously, pushed her away many a time. I realise now that it was because of my fear of letting someone into my space. I feel terrible knowing this as it has probably hurt her so very much and I wish I could have realised sooner that this mess I experienced had so many repercussions.
You see I have a lot to be thankful for too. My self esteem was in tatters and at my friend’s house my confidence was boosted, I loved it there. Her mom was one of the most beautiful ladies I have ever seen. She had oodles and oodles of make-up and hair ties and bracelets. After a day of shopping and swimming we would bath and go in to her mom’s room and experiment with all the goodies.
I must admit that the first night I slept there I was petrified for the moment her dad would come home from work. You see I had a Grandpa and Uncles. The picture of a “father” to me wasn’t a nice one, one that you could have an unconditional relationship with. I learned very quickly that my friend’s parents did argue, but the things that happened in my home, never happened in hers. Her dad still today is an amazing, caring, compassionate, human being. It is really amazing how some men differ like night and day.
In my friend’s home I was made to feel a part of the family. I would even call her Gran, “Granny ………” When my friend’s parents bought a new lounge suite, her mom told us to go to the bedroom so she could surprise us. We waited so long, we decided to sneak out my friend’s bedroom window and walk to the shops. Boy were we in trouble when we got back and tried to climb through the window, only to find my friend’s mom sitting there. We never tried that trick again. We were punished though, not beaten to a pulp, or strangled or given death ray stares. It was made quite clear to us what we did wrong and that it was because we were loved so much that we should never do something like that again. I use this very strategy with my children today.
My friend’s sister tried to brush my hair after a bath one day. I had hair that I could sit on. The problem was that I didn’t know how to take care of it. It was so matted it was like the hair of an abused, uncared for, long haired dog. This is no exaggeration. I’m not sure how my Gran got to find out about it, but I have an idea that my friend’s mom paid her a visit and informed her. You see my step father would not allow me to cut my hair. In the next few days my aunt took me to the hairdresser and my hair was cut into a Princess Diana do.
Shortly before we moved to a house in Emmarentia, my step father’s, half brother phoned one night. My stepfather had been drinking heavily all day. I remember my mom being in a state and my step Gran and Stepfather’s sister being at our home. Who knows what more would have happened if they weren’t there. His half brother was going through a sticky divorce and wanted my step father to help him get his children for the week.
My step father left in a rage and ended up beating his brother’s soon to be ex-wife’s new boyfriend within an inch of his life. Charges were laid but he got off scott-free because of a crooked lawyer.
After that event my step father decided to stop drinking and turn his life around. Life was peaceful for a while. Then he got a new job and he started to go on “drinking” business meetings.
My mom ran her own business from home. He came home one day and beat her very badly. Things were strewn all over her home office. She had another black eye too. The nanny and I grabbed my then two year old brother, and we tried to get into the car with my mom and drive to my Grandparents house two blocks away.
My mom hit a pole on the carport and the door was stuck. We all ran out into the road. Luckily for us my Gramps was driving to the shop to get his daily newspaper. I have never got into a car so fast before. Late that night my step father arrived at my Grandparents house, and tried to convince my mother to give him my brother. I was so scared that I called the flying squad. She eventually went with him. In the morning she came to fetch my brother and I – and we went back home.
While I was on holiday with my Aunt, my Mom and step father bought a house in Randpark Ridge. We had a woman move in with us whose husband disappeared, literally off the face of the earth, leaving her pregnant, and jobless. There were no arguments at that home that I can remember. We didn’t stay there very long though.
My mom and stepfather ended up buying a house in Brackendowns, where the walls of their marriage would finally crumble. We didn’t move into this home right away as the sale would only go through after six months, so we moved into my Uncle’s flat in Victory Park.
My step father got insanely drunk again one night. He wanted to take my mom and go out “clubbing”. She refused, and a fight started. During the argument he grabbed my brother and tried to leave with him. My mother was exhausted so I ran after him and spoke him down to a point that I could get my brother away from him. Heaven alone knows what would have happened if he succeeded in taking my brother. My brother and I shared a room, so when I got home I got in to bed with him and clung to him all night. I doubt that I slept much but there was no way I would let my brother be in harm’s way again. I protected him against other children’s bullying and any other threats that may have arisen. What really gets to me is that there are more than just a handful of flats in that block, and NO-ONE came out to help.
Once we moved to Brackendowns things escalated over the nine years that we were there. The issue also came up again of my grandparents buying me things. My stepfather couldn’t keep a job so there was never much money. At one stage both he and my mom were working and I asked to go along on a shopping trip to get some underwear. Mine were holier than the pope. I waited and waited all day for them to arrive home, and they never did. My mom went wild in the shops; she bought herself new shirts, pants, shoes, underwear, the works, including a pair of fluffy teddy slippers. When I asked why they never came to fetch me I was told quite clearly. “Go and ask your Grandmother.”
It reminds me of the Christmas that my brother got a brand new “top of the range” cricket bat and accessories. I got a R2 water paint set from the bargain shop. I was considering buying each child in the class I was teaching one of these sets, so yes I did know the price. What really irked me is that they knew well that I had an expensive set which was bought for me to take to college but I never needed. So it was unused.
Other than that there were a lot of the usual arguments, drunken rage, black eyes and lectures. Five incidents stand out to me though.
The first occasion was when my step father drank heavily at a soccer match of my brother’s. The minute we walked in he started to beat my mother. I ended up calling a friend of my brother’s – father - who came to our rescue. My mom looked worse this time than any other time. We spent the night at these friends. In the morning my mom decided to take my step father back again!
The second: He got horribly drunk on another occasion, this time my brother had one of his friend’s spending the weekend. This time I had two little boys to keep calm and out of harm’s way.
The third: I had started to work and because I had money of my own I would buy cold-drinks to share etc. I put the cold drink in the kitchen and went to the cupboard to get glasses, so I could pour a drink for everyone. My step father came in and chose a huge mug to pour his cold drink into. I asked him to rather use a glass that was the same size as everyone else’s. He flipped, He grabbed my left arm and twisted it, knowing that he would hurt me the most there. (I broke my arm one Christmas when I slipped on slasto. My arm never healed properly because I had a drunken idiot for a doctor and because every time I did something that pissed my step father off he would grab it first)
He threw the two litre bottles at me so hard that they broke and there was cold drink splattered all over the kitchen. He then threw me across the room into a cupboard door. I slumped onto the floor, and then he started to kick me. I had so many bruises after that beating. I had to take my Gran shopping the following Friday and I still could barely drive my car, let alone push a shopping cart.
On the fourth occasion I remember running into the street yelling “FIRE!”. Once again no one helped. The neighbours that did come out were friends of my step-father’s and turned around and walked away. If I knew where they were today I would probably have them beaten to a pulp and then ask them if it was nice when I walked away and never bothered to help. I phoned another of my friend’s mom’s that night. She came to my rescue. I am more than grateful for what she did. She even had the guts to speak to him and tell him that what he was doing was wrong. I still use her as a reference to my life today. What a strong amazing lady.
The fifth was my mom’s last beating. He threw a glass lamp across the room at her, and then a steaming hot cup of coffee. She had finally had enough. By this time he was having an internet affair and also beat my brother for “spying”.
The sixth and final beating was when we were moving out. I tried to get my dog. Yes I had to protect our pets from his wrath too! He would train the dogs to walk on a lead by dragging them on a long lead making their paws bleed. No one was safe.
He punched me in the face through the gate, so hard that I literally flew to the ground metres away. My arm was once again wrecked and I was very sore, but my babies were safe. Yes – When I say I have been directly in the line of fire for an animal I was. I laid charges but the court papers were “lost”. Once again thanks to a crooked lawyer. So this is my justice.
It has been a long hard journey to get me to where I am today. My self esteem is still shaky, and I still sometimes flinch when my husband puts his arms around me, moves suddenly or reaches to get something from a cupboard when he is standing next to me. I refuse to let it cause a rift between us though. I hope that one day my invisible scars will eventually heal.
I still ask questions like – why wasn’t I good enough? I still sleep very lightly and I can’t seem to close my bedroom door at night. That fear is still there that something may go wrong, and that I will have to save someone from danger. I still keep most people at an arm’s length in fear that I will be hurt, but at least I’m allowing the people into my life who have been there through it all, through thick and thin. It’s because of them that I am still here and am able to tell my story.
I will continue to fight against those who abuse women and children, or animals. It sickens me to see how little people are willing to step in and help.
My children don’t know all the details but I am educating them. My son will never raise a hand to a woman, and my daughter will have enough strength and self esteem for it NOT to happen to her.