Editor’s Note: Trigger Warning.
I drift away toward an all too familiar place, where haunting images of my past appear vividly before my eyes. A place where suppressed memories are allowed to surface. Normally, these recollections come in the form of a gloomy compilation with no adherence to the timeline in which they actually occurred. My brain bombards me with images as often as it sees fit in a cruel fashion. It can rip through the floodgates regardless of what is happening in my life at that moment.
A blurry vision starts to take shape.
This memory is particularly ugly and disconcerting.
A tall, large figure hovering over me threateningly. A look of rabid anger in his eyes, frothing at the corners of his mouth. Surreal yet so real. The sounds of a broken glass bottle piercing my back, foot and arms. Repugnant smell of beer flowing away from the shards and into the floor. The sensation of my jaw bone being forcibly displaced by a hand which does not feel remorse. Dreams and daydreams are still a struggle but not as menacing as they were shortly after I broke free from the prison called home.
This monster had many characteristics adding up to create his form.
An abuser that can only be described as an alcoholic, eccentric, amoral, racist, pathological liar whose only concern was for himself and the masses of money he hoarded. Coercing us with psychological and physical warfare, totalitarian control measures were imposed on the household 24/7. A figure with such a propensity toward arguments, divorced from reasoning or logic. We were on edge at all times for when the impending physical fight would break out. I would lie in my bed suffering anxiety and lack of sleep.
I barely noticed the absence of heating in the house anymore. The wait was sometimes worse than the actual violence. It can be equated to a suspenseful movie where one cannot bear the build up. The pathetic result of which is almost feeling relief when the horror materializes.
My responsibilities and life, in general, suffered directly on account of this. Being barely able to keep my eyes open and concentrate on the school material I needed to study. Unable to respond to questions because my voice was extinguished in the hours of screaming the night before.
Constantly stricken with migraines and panic attacks. Incapable of thinking about anything other than the second or third round I’d have to endure later on that day.
I couldn’t bring myself to socialize with others as much as I would have liked because of my deep depression and quarantined emotions; emotions that I tried to keep buried and forbade from exposing themselves to the public.
My mother felt the brunt of the beatings. A woman of medium build and stature, there was no comparison between her and the six foot three monster holding her captive all those years. Strangulation marks were often the only adornment she wore. I can remember seeing her head being smashed against the concrete floor repeatedly, with blood seeping out of her face.
I remember screaming with my entire lung capacity and wishing that I had the strength to remove the attacker from her. It was an attempt in futility and only resulted in an angrier aggressor. It’s a memory that stands out in particular, so sickening that attempted murder is the only way to describe it.
My younger sister was braver than us in some ways and had a different coping strategy.
She ran away many times though fell into a sphere of people who ended up treating her not much better than who she was trying to get away from. Depressing statistics had claimed their mark on her; no longer a one time victim but now trapped in a cycle of abuse. Alcohol soon became a daily crutch as such is the tendency for offspring of an alcoholic.
No neighbor ever ventured to show up at our door nor call the police despite clearly hearing our cries and his bellowing yells. Sometimes, they witnessed the harassment first hand as he liked to drag me out in the driveway by my hair and loudly humiliate me. Passers-by got to hear him inform me that I’d only be a slave to my future husband, just like my mother, with no rights or any hope.
Women were only around to serve men.
He followed a stereotypical mindset unfairly attributed to Arab men, without having any connection.
Many times he evicted us to spend the night at a park in the freezing winter cold.
Sometimes, we would have to walk hours to get back home because he left us on the side of a highway somewhere. I still have scars on my body and mind.
“Why do I even bother to stay alive? Will we ever get out of here?” were thoughts I mulled over so often those days. The solution sounded so simple in words or in writing but talking to anyone was impossible.
We were told that our fate would be sealed if we ever tried to save ourselves. We, therefore, settled for our grim existence, completely devoid of hope or the courage to ignore the death threats and take action.
Although I was fascinated by religion, I had the typical mindset of a secular person and my reasoning behind not believing in God was the usual argument: If God existed, would I be in such a horrible situation?
I also grew up in a household void of belief and looking back on it, there might have been a second thought before carrying out such actions. Only after a near-death experience by my own hands, reaching the lowest, darkest point was I finally able to accept that there must be a higher purpose to my life. I must matter. I needed to be worth something even though I was made to think the opposite all my years.
There are countless more details about my previous life, as I refer to it now, that I cannot find the words to include. However, that is not my goal here. I wish to show through all of this that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for survivors. Even though my abuser is still free to roam the Earth, I have taught myself to move on after many nights of fears and tears.
Never will I be 100% free of my past but at least I can see a more positive perspective. I pray that young women, or any victims of abuse, realize their life is sacred.
We all have an important place in this world.