The Memory of Her Screams

I was 16 or 17 years old.  My exact age doesn’t matter. I was old enough to be acutely aware of exactly what was going on.  The first time it happened, they had had a huge party.  The party was enough to keep all of the neighbors awake, but it was the sound of her being hit with something – and her screams – that made everyone call the police.

The second time it happened, it happened in much the same way. The party was first – then the screaming, the begging, and those fucking sounds of her being hit. In our house, the noise was also accompanied with my mom pleading with my dad to not go over there.  He couldn’t stand it.  The girl this was happening to was two, maybe three, years older than me.  His impulse was to take one of the many baseball bats we had the in house and go make that guy scream the way he was making his “girlfriend” scream. His protector instinct kicked in to the point where he was almost climbing the walls.

Each time we called the cops, the scene played out the same. Sudden stopping of the abuse, the guy would leave the house usually through our backyard (they were joined), and she would deny anything had been taking place.

All of us were driven mad by this cycle.

It began happening so frequently, that my dad was starting to plot.  Since he was always going through our yard to make his escape, my dad wanted to stop him. Or at least slow him down so that the police could question him.  My mom never let him.

Why? The “abuser” in this case was also a well known drug dealer who had anger issues.  I knew about the anger issues. We went to high school together for two years, and he was in one of my elective classes. That guy never had an ounce of self control which meant he spent most of his time in with the vice principal. He was a scary guy. He had made it clear to our elderly neighbors that he was armed and would use the guns he had.

So, my dad, not one to be fucked with himself, took his own tactics with the guy. Instead of boobie trapping the backyard as he often talked about, he would get up at 6am the day after the party and decide to wash the cars. He would turn on the radio while he did it which would usually result in this guy stumbling outside to yell at someone.  I mean, he was hung over and had been up late – no one can interrupt his sleep.  My dad being the smart ass he was would say, “Good Morning! Hell of a party you had last night! I know I was up while you kids had fun.  Hope I didn’t wake you while you are trying to recover because that would be a damn shame.  Anyway, I’m going to finish washing the cars, maybe mow the lawn, then find something else to occupy myself to make sure you don’t get the sleep I didn’t get.  Have a great day!!”

The guy was usually dumbfounded enough that he would just stumble back inside without another word.

That kept the loud abuse at bay until he started threatening the other neighbors.  Then the abuse of his girlfriend started again.

I knew the girl who was being abused. I knew his friends who were sometimes over there when it was happening. (Hell, I discovered three of the guys were in the National Guard with my dad. They stopped attending after he made it known to them he was the neighbors and knew what was going on.) My dad, it turned out, worked with the girl’s mom. He invited her out for a drink after work one night and tried talking to her about it.  My dad came back sick over the response he got, “she made her own bed; she needs to lie in it.”

The police were frustrated, the neighbors were flustered, and we were all sick of that sound.  That sound that, as I type this, I can still hear in my head.  That sound, we later found out, was being reported by people three blocks away from that house.  Three fucking blocks away, they could hear her being beaten. Think about that.

Eventually, it stopped. We don’t know what all it was that made it stop.  We did hear she had gotten away from him which made us happy – but we all hoped that meant she got help too.  We did not want her to go through this again. We found out too that he was being investigated by the state police regarding his manufacturing and distribution of drugs. I guess when he left that house, he fled far away.  We found out too that they had determined he was listening to a police scanner which is how he was always escaping the police when they came to investigate the abuse.

The profound effect it had on me – this situation and even my dad’s reaction to it – is still fresh in my memory twenty years later. I would love to say this is my only experience with domestic violence, but sadly, it is not. There was a classmate and coworker of mine in high school who was so badly abused physically, mentally and sexually that she still suffers from post-traumatic stress.  Or my aunt who, when she decided to file for divorce, could not be in the house alone with her boys without risking an outburst from her husband. (Welcome to small, SMALL town Iowa where restraining orders are hard to enforce when you have a part-time police force.) My dad and mom spent countless nights with her keeping her safe while my cousins spent the night with us in the larger town.  Or, the girl in college that confided in me her abuse.  I knew her boyfriend very well, and hearing it pissed me off to the point where I confronted him on it. She stopped talking to me after that. I didn’t fucking care. I had considered him a friend (we were both one of the 5 computer science majors at the time), and I was not going to stand by and do nothing after finding that out. He stopped – at least during the remainder of college.  Or the most recent incident which happened in our neighborhood about 6 years ago,when the ex-husband of a woman shot and killed her after a court hearing about a restraining order.  He did it right in front of her family and kids. 

I have too many personal stories about people friends, family and neighbors to pretend that Domestic Violence won’t effect me.  I have seen it effect too many people.  I have seen the impact it has on the women, the kids, and the families of the abused. And, if I have learned anything from my own experience and upbringing, it should not be ignored.

I did not realize that October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month until the lovely Veronica mentioned it on her blog.

Like her, I urge you to take a moment. Educate yourself. And most importantly, don’t stand by and be silent about it.
If I learned one thing from my dad during that whole situation, it was not to be silent.
Not to believe it is only the problem of the person being abused.
Silence is what fuels this problem.

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Its hard to believe that people can be so brutal to those they profess to ‘love’. Big hugs and smooches to your dad for trying to help.

  2. I rarely get political around these parts, but it’s hard to not in regards to this particular topic. My mother was part of an ‘underground railroad’ of sorts in the 70s and 80s for women escaping from these situations. I have far too many memories of my own regarding this topic.

    And as an aside scan through this little braiding paper and you’ll find that as of 1994 at least 8 of the 16 largest health insurers used domestic violence as an underwriting criteria. I don’t care to turn this into an arguement regarding the pros and cons of a national health policy, but if your objection is based partially on fear of death panels, you’re a moron. They already exist. They’re called actuaries.

  3. Dana says:

    Thank you for posting this today – seems Veronica inspired several of us … again! She has a knack for that.

    I think one of the most important things to be aware of is that Domestic Violence impacts everyone in some way. Your story is proof of that.

    There are so many misconceptions – so many incorrect stereotypes – and so little help in some of the (rural) communities that need it the most.

  4. BTExpress says:

    Your dad was awesome! Abuse should be treated like rape. It’s all the same thing in my book.

  5. bookbinder says:

    In case you’re wondering, BTExpress is my first alter ego. I’m in hiding from my “out laws” now.

  6. Thank you for writing about this. As I mentioned on Veronica’s blog, I will be writing one, too. I deal with the effects o DV every day, due to my occupation.

    I do want to address one part of your post, though.

    The “abuser” in this case was also a well known drug dealer who had anger issues. I knew about the anger issues. We went to high school together for two years, and he was in one of my elective classes. That guy never had an ounce of self control which meant he spent most of his time in with the vice principal.

    Putting “abuser” in quotations takes away and minimizes what he was doing. It was abuser. He wasn’t the “abuser.” He was the abuser.

    Oftentimes, we use the excuse that batterers have “anger issues.” But everyone gets angry; it’s how we experience and express the anger that matters. But in my experience, people that get angry often do not have “anger” issues. The emotion we are most comfortable expressing is often the one that we need the least amount of work on. The anger was his way of expressing the other emotions that he couldn’t express, acknowledge, or handle.

    And finally? Abusers have all the self control in the world. It’s just another excuse. If they didn’t, they would be walking down the street and randomly hitting everyone, or their girlfriend. But they don’t. They abuse their partner in the privacy of their home, when guests aren’t there. They hit them in places that the bruises won’t show. These attacks are planned. The manipulation is planned. That is not the behavior of someone that does not have self control. In fact, it’s just the oppsite.

    Thank you again for your post. <3

  7. ZenMom says:

    I can’t think of even one woman I know whose life has not – in some way – been touched by domestic violence or sexual assault. That might be the saddest statistic I know.

  8. Vixen says:

    I *heart* your dad. Such a sad story. 🙁

    Thanks for posting this and making everyone more ‘aware’.

  9. Ms Scarlett says:

    Thank you for this post. I have supported our local women’s shelter for years, both financially and by donating clothes and time. Having been through a mentally abusive relationship myself, I feel compelled to help however I can.

    Wonderful post.

  10. I can only imagine your frustration, and bless your Dad for trying to do something about it.

    There’s far more domestic violence around than we think and although I support Breast Cancer Awareness, it’s almost a shame that it overshadows somewhat Domestic Violence Awareness month. But I guess there’s only just so many months in a year!


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