To My Son – A San Diego Survivor’s Letter
You are only months away from entering this wonderful world as I write this, and I am already imagining what you will look like as a grown man and how you will feel reading the stacks of letters I am writing to you now. One day you will be old enough to understand that this wonderful world can also be brutal, and that will be when I hand you the letters because I want you to know the cycle from which I have worked so hard to free you. It is my hope that I have done a good job raising you and that your uncle and other good men in your life have shown you how to let kindness and goodness guide your life and relationships. Every bit of good in you as a grown man will help me to forget a bit of pain from the beatings I endured from a man I once loved, your father.
In the beginning, it was only my heart that saw your father. I missed the little signs early on, and like a slow boil, the excitement of true love had become a grotesque union of an abuser and a victim. To the outside world, your father was a respectable, charming person. No one knew the dark universe of our marriage and what happened inside the apartment that I came to see as my prison. I had become a shell of a person after more than two years of mind-blowing cycles of bloody fights, being dragged along the floor like a felled tree, and the maceration of my dignity each time my spirit shined too bright. When the attacks would come, I would typically be frozen with fear, knowing I could not escape them. I remember clearly the one time I did run. Your father had thrust my face so hard into a wall that he fractured my nose, and an animal-like sense of impending death took my legs toward the door and I found myself running faster than light and into the arms of my mother, who called the police yet another time. And yes, the flowers and the chocolates came and worked on my heart again. . . and again.
And then one day it was not a brush with death that finally caused me to walk away forever. It was a brush with life, new life, growing in my belly. I knew I could not have a child witness this brutality and possibly imitate it later. So, when I found out I was pregnant with you, I walked away and made this confidential shelter our temporary home. As you grow inside me, I feel your miraculous, gentle kicks as you turn in my belly. Every month until you are born, I will write letters that I plan to give you when you are ready to understand the importance of ending the cycle of violence. This is the first letter. The next one will explain how I know that your father loves you, but that it does not excuse the violence. The next one after that will explain how violence was a generational tragedy for both sides of your family. I came from a long line of broken abusers and victims, and surviving was literally the way I lived. Your father also saw violence every day, and his mother lost her life to domestic violence—the last human touch of her life was a brutal blow to the head.
You will have a stack of letters to read, and each word was written with my new-found courage and deep love for you, my son. We will end this cycle for our families, you and I together.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
The number one thing that will end domestic violence is our collective power. By speaking openly about domestic violence, we can help stop the cycle of abuse. If you or someone you know needs someone to talk to, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE), direct them to the San Diego Family Justice Center, or SAY’s domestic violence resource page.