While I was in school, I had to worry about other kids making fun of the way
I dressed, because we were so poor that we didn’t have nice clothing. To top
that off, I was what people called a “tomboy.” I didn’t fit in with other girls
because I hated pretty bows and dresses. I didn’t fit in with boys because I was
a girl. When I was home, I had to worry about my father beating us, or making
us rub him or do those sexual things. I was getting to the point where I hated
being alive. I would sometimes think how would I kill myself without it hurting.
I was too young to know about drugs, and I didn’t want to bleed, so I couldn’t
do anything but live and take it.
Once, I even thought about how could I kill my father and get away with
it. One thing I considered was to cut his car’s brake line. I had helped him fix
his car so many times that I pretty much knew how it worked and where
everything was. I also believed that if I did such a thing, God would punish me
by having my father tell me to run an errand with him on that particular day,
and I would die with him. No thank you!
At home, there was more and more abuse going on. Every time I walked
in the house, I had butterflies in my stomach. I never knew if I was going to
be beaten, or if my brothers and sisters, or even mom, would be beaten for
something.
My brother Tony was always being beaten for things he did wrong in
school. My father got to the point that whenever my brother would bring home
a letter from the teacher; Tony would get one lash with the belt for every word
in the letter. One letter was so long that I was in my room shaking and praying
for my brother, hoping that my father would stop and not kill him. I kept saying,
“Please God, make him stop; please God, that’s enough.” At that time, I
wondered why a God who is supposed to love and protect this world would let
a man beat a child like that. What kind of God is this that I believe in?
Not only would my father beat us, he had certain punishments for us as well.
Not like parents do who might take away your music or TV. We never had
those things anyway. My father would hang us over a doorway for hours, and
there were nails up there sticking us in the stomach. In the early 70s, the
doorways were made with a small window over them. All the doorways in our
apartment were missing these pieces of glass. So my father would hang us in
the empty window frames.
Another punishment was to make us lean up against the wall, as if a
policeman were frisking a suspect. Our hands would hold the wall, and our feet
would be away from it and we were not allowed to move an inch. If we moved,
he would beat us with the belt.
The worst punishment was when he would put two empty plastic bowls in
our hands – palms up – and make us hold the bowls for a very long time. If our
hands moved down, we were slapped or punched.
These punishments were for infractions such as writing on the wall, or
making too much noise while he was trying to watch TV, or not cleaning the
house fast enough, or good enough. Once, Mary didn’t clean a pot spotlessly
and my father took her head and slammed it into the sink full of dirty dishes.
Her eye was a fraction of an inch from a knife.
There was a special punishment if we told a lie. Our father would take a
whole tablespoon of red hot pepper and make us eat it. If we threw it up; we
had to do it again.
One day my father was cooking something on the stove. Tony wanted to
touch the stove while the fire was on. My father told him not to touch it, but
Tony had to touch it anyway. My father got so mad when Tony didn’t listen
to him he took Tony’s hand and held it over the fire. He said, “You want to
touch? Here, this is how it feels.” Tony had blisters around all of his fingers
from the fire on his hand. I stood there while Tony cried in agony and thought,
“I really hate my father. I hate him so much.”
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