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There is a saying, “Children learn what they live, not what they are told.”

I had a very abusive uncle. My aunt was a wonderful little lady who was always smiling and never let on that anything was ever wrong. There were three sons in the family and my uncle severely abused them, from the time they were very young, verbally, emotionally, and physically. He was the cause of many broken bones. He verbally and physically abused my aunt as well.

When my uncle died, I remember sitting at the table of my cousin, Danny, after the funeral. By then, he was an adult and married himself. He began talking about the abuse and said he felt guilty for hating his dad, sometimes. But what he said next shocked me. He said, “I just wish I could stop resenting and being so angry at my mom.” “What are you talking about?” I asked,” she’s about the kindest, sweetest lady I’ve ever known.”

“Sometimes, I hate her as much as him.” Why would you hate HER, Danny?”

“Because all those years Dad beat us and broke us into pieces, she stayed with him and watched him do it. She never left the s.o.b. and took us where we’d be safe. She let him beat the hell out of her and never did anything either.” I knew that Danny did not understand the dynamics of domestic violence so I tried to explain some reasons why she may not have left him. Her situation was different and, to some, extent, he was right. My aunt had a great job she’d had for years and she had several siblings who lived in the same city close by. She had resources many victims don’t.

“She never even tried to protect us.” I knew that I couldn’t explain to Danny all the dynamics of domestic violence in one afternoon, but he made me see a different perspective on what a helpless child might be feeling. He watched his mother being beaten, he was beaten and his older brother, Greg, was beaten so badly, they took him to the hospital and said he’d fallen off the roof. Not one medical professional questioned it.

Domestic violence affects each victim in different ways. Danny never told his mom how he felt, and he struggled with relationships all his life. He became an alcoholic and committed suicide at age 43. Will died in a plane crash.

Greg served two years in prison for assaulting his fiancée.

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