20 years later

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Yesterday was my 39th birthday (how is that even possible?!?!).  It made me recollect one of my earlier birthdays…my 19th to be exact.  That was probably one of the worst birthdays- no, actual days- of my life.  Weeks prior, my father assaulted me and was arrested and the police issued a restraining order against him on my behalf to prevent him from coming near me or to the house.  His court date was set afterwards and coincidentally landed on my 19th birthday.  I was pressured by my mother and my father’s lawyer to drop the assault charges, which I did, and after going to court, my father was cleared and the restraining order was dropped.  After staying in a hotel by his job for several weeks, my father was allowed to come home.  I do not remember (or chose not to remember) the exact details of that day.  I remember walking into the courthouse with just my mom.  I can recollect speaking to my dad’s lawyer, but not having to actually speak to the judge.  Most of my memories of that day are fuzzy.  I can’t even really remember what happened when we arrived back home as a “family”.  Did my mom make my favorite vanilla cake with chocolate frosting and M&Ms?  Did my mom, sister and dad stand around the table singing “Happy Birthday” as I blew out the candles?  Did my mom sign my birthday card, “Love, Mom and Dad”?  I really don’t recall.  I just remember it REALLY SUCKING.  That is a juvenile way of describing it, but when I think about that day, that’s how I felt…it just sucked.  It was awkward and forced and I was conflicted and confused.  I loved my dad, but he physically attacked me and most of the time we all just acted like nothing happened.

It is weird to think about that day.  Sometimes it feels like it never actually happened…like it was just a very realistic nightmare, yet it was one of the defining moments of my young adult life.  It is hard to believe that it was twenty years ago.  It is not something I dwell on often, but I do think about it every year on my birthday.

Crying Wolf

I am a news junkie and the event that has my attention right now is the Jodi Arias case. I have always had a particular interest in court proceedings and this case kind of blows my mind. I think most of us are guilty (yes, pun intended) of deciding the innocence of a defendant using only the limited information that is released to the public. For example, from the beginning I believed Amanda Knox was innocent.

But the reason this case really bothers me is that Jodi Arias is portrayed by the defense as an abused woman. She testified on the stand that her parents physically abused her and then that several men she dated verbally, emotionally and even physically abused her throughout her lifetime, including the man she killed. Of course there is a chance this is true, but it seems pretty apparent that it is a strategy being used to paint her as a victim.

I have been the victim of physical and emotional abuse by my father and later, verbal abuse by my ex-husband. My mother has been abused in every way by my father. I have known many people who have been in domestic violence situations far, far worse than mine. It really bothers me on a deep level that there is a good possibility that Jodi Arias is claiming to be a victim of abuse if she is not. There are so many women (and children…and men) who are being hurt by people they love and it is a disservice to them when someone fraudulently uses abuse as a defense for their terrible actions. No one who really truly IS a victim wants to be seen or treated as a victim. I have always strived to avoid using my childhood experiences as an excuse for doing something hurtful to myself or to someone else.

Again, I don’t really know if this woman was hurt by anyone. Either way, nothing she described on the witness stand sounded that violent or even that scary. Domestic violence is such a serious problem in our country, one that does not receive the attention it needs.