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No Violence, No Silence
I’m a better man when I express my emotions
Anonymous
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Names have been changed.

One evening not long before my 16th birthday, I heard two big crashes like thunderclaps and my mom screaming, “Move away from me!” I knew my dad was hitting her and I knew I had to do something.

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I ran into the room and tried to push him away. As he rushed at my mom again, I pushed the bed she was lying on all the way to the window so he couldn’t get close to her. My little brother kept asking me, “Is everything going to be OK?”

Then it was over. My dad pushed me away and walked into the living room to watch TV. I went to the kitchen to get my little brother and told him to go check on my mom because I needed to be alone for a little while.

Too Scared to Call

Once I was in the bathroom, I cried hard. Anita, my 14-year-old sister, wasn’t home; she was at my cousin’s house for a sleepover. I didn’t know what to do so I called her and told her what happened. I didn’t want anyone to hear me crying because I was embarrassed, but I couldn’t stop. Finally, my mom came in and told me to try and calm down.

My cousin got on the phone and told me to take a stand and do something about what happened. I dialed 911 but I couldn’t bring myself to press Send. I thought about not having a father in my life: Would I have to take charge of the family, and give up my dreams and goals? Would I become a punk? Who would pay the bills? At the same time, I thought about losing my mom if I was taken away from her. All these fears made me too scared to call the police.

I knew if I spoke to my father he wouldn’t listen to me, so I spoke to his parents and sisters and brothers about what happened. They spoke to him, but it didn’t change anything. He just ignored them.

Defusing the Bomb

My dad was never a physically violent person, so it was a shock seeing him attack my mom. Before this, he reminded me of a ticking bomb that can be defused. He would get mad over small stuff, but instead of exploding he’d somehow calm down by sitting alone and watching TV.

I didn’t know why my dad was so mad that night. Often I’ll ask him what’s wrong or what he is so angry about and he doesn’t answer. Maybe he snapped because he thought my mom was having an affair with another man. I would hear him accusing her of texting other men. It upset me because I think he needed to be feared. It seemed like he hit her to feel superior and powerful. Maybe it made him feel more like a man.

I like feeling powerful either by speaking up for something I believe in or by playing basketball—not by being physically abusive. I want to be respected because I show respect, not because people are afraid of me.

I feel that physical abuse is wrong. I’m sorry I called my sister instead of the police that night. I’m sorry I didn’t feel strong enough to do that.

Is Talking Weak?

Soon after the incident, I was called to the principal’s office to talk about my junior year schedule. At the end of the meeting, my principal asked, “Are you OK? Many people are wondering about you; do you have a situation going on at home?”

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“No, Ms. Cruz, I’m not OK. And yes, there is a situation at home.”

She said, “I’m here any time you want to talk.”

I tried to smile and then I walked out of the office. I wanted to unburden myself, but I was afraid she might talk to my father and then he would leave us, something he has threatened to do many times before.

The next day I found my good friend James outside our apartment building walking his dog. He’s one of my male friends who I can reach out to about any problem. Fortunately, he also grew up around many girls and women and feels the same way I do: They deserve the same respect as men.

At first, I was nervous telling him about what happened but I eventually opened up to him. James said, “None of this is your fault, and I’m always here bro, so you know where to find me.” After we talked, I felt better.

My dad discourages me from expressing my feelings. He says it looks weak to show my emotions to women and if I do, they’ll take advantage of me. So I don’t bother to tell him how I feel anymore. My mom, however, encourages me to express my feelings, and we talk in depth about them.

Preparing for the Worst

My grades were fine before my dad attacked my mom. But after that I couldn’t get anything done. My grades dropped tremendously because I was sleeping in class, barely participating, and not doing homework or projects.

It’s been two months since that night and I haven’t had a full night’s sleep. I often go into my siblings’ room and watch them sleep to make sure everything is under control. My father only hit my mother once, but now he argues with her loudly throughout the night. They talk in Spanish, which I can’t understand, so that makes me more anxious. I might not be as upset if I knew what all the fuss is about. Every time I bring it up to my mom, she says, “Everything is going to be OK.”

I am afraid that he’ll go off and hit my mom again. When I hear them arguing I sometimes bang on my wall as hard as I can to pretend like I’m having a nightmare, and sometimes my sister does that too. Other times I walk into their room and just stare at both of them with an “Are you serious?” face. When I do that they stop arguing.

Finding Support

Recently, I talked with my principal, Ms. Cruz, again. I wanted her to help me figure out how to make sure that what happens at home doesn’t affect my ability to do well in school. I also know it’s not good for me to keep my feelings trapped inside. Now Ms. Cruz understands why my grades dropped. I failed three quarters of chemistry so she’s letting me take the class over next year. She also said I can work in the guidance counselor’s room after school so I won’t get distracted at home. I’m grateful that she listened and that she didn’t report my dad.

Also, two of my aunts have told me that my two siblings and I could live with them if we needed to. They know what happened and they want me to have a normal life. Knowing we have a place to go makes me more likely to do something to protect my mom. If my dad hits her again, I’m not afraid to call the police. Unlike my father, I think a man should be able to ask for help and to talk to somebody to work things out.


How to Report Domestic Violence

If someone in your house is in immediate danger, call 911. If you want to report ongoing domestic violence, call Safe Horizon’s hotline at 800-261-HOPE (4673).

IIf you’d rather e-mail for help, go to thehotline.org.

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(NYC-2016-01-08)