Being a Child Witness of Domestic Violence

Being a Child Witness of Domestic Violence

As I wrote this I struggled to find adequate words to thank, encourage and inform supporters of Northwest Family Life and then I thought about those we are really here to support and my thoughts went to my 84-year-old mother. At the age of 23, on January 26,1963 she and my Dad (also 23 at the time) were married. Both of them, having migrated from the South a couple years earlier, were hoping for a better life. The following year on March 1, 1964, my older sister Regina would be born. I wouldn’t show up until 5 years later in January 1969.

My mother often talks about those early years when she felt that she and my Father were working together to build a home, family and a business. Although I do not know the exact details of when or what took place, my mother recently shared that the abuse began around 1972 when I was 3 years old and my sister would have been 8. I do recall the abuse and how scared both Gina and I were. I also recall running at different times to the neighbor’s home or homes of family members, like the home of my Mom’s brother, my Uncle Willie. I also recall an extended stay when we traveled throughout the night and moved to Pensacola Florida where we could flee the abuse sometime in 1976. Here we would temporarily stay with my Mom’s sister, my Aunt Bobbie until my Mom secured a job and a home for us. This I recall being a big deal, because Gina and I had to transfer to a new Catholic school. It was quite a culture shock as a child, having to learn to navigate a new environment.

The one thing that stands out for me during these times of upheaval are the looks we received from family, or neighbors every time we had to be relocated from one place to another. These looks and stares I believe taught me early to not be disruptive or rock the boat so to speak, because having a home or place to live meant stability. My Dad would come down during Christmas of that year and we would return back to Cleveland early the next year in 1977. This of course meant transferring once again back to our school. Of course, the abuse would soon pick back up and would eventually end in 1979 when my Mom resolved to leave my Dad for good and divorce him.

Flash forward to now, I think of all of the things my mom endured at such a young age and how she had to start over on her own with two daughters, me at the age of 10 and my sister 15. I know it wasn’t easy, but she always found a way and would eventually not only survive, but thrive. What assisted her were these things:

  • Her faith in God which shaped her identity. She knew she was not created to be abused.
  • Her desire for both Gina and I to know we were worth more, so we would not think the abuse was normal.
  • Establishing a safe community of friends that she could talk to who would not judge but embrace her.
  • Utilizing her creative gifts and talents including but not limited to sewing and baking as an outlet and sharing these gifts and talents with others to help where needed.
  • Journaling her feelings and writing stories and poems.

 

To this day, these areas continue to shape and strengthen my mom, who I dedicate this to. I write this to women who may be in the midst of DV situations to date. Please know that your children value you and see you even in times that you don’t see yourselves. They see and know your worth and value and they need you. The decisions you make impact them in more ways than you know. As a child witness of domestic violence, I know what it is like to carry fear and I am grateful that my mother chose to leave and remove my sister and I from a violent household. In leaving, she modeled what it is like to live in faith and not fear, and to believe and hope for better.

I never imaged that I would be an Affiliate of Northwest Family Life. How I got to this place was in attending what once was Mars Hill Graduate School and is now The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology. Having attended the college, they established a DVA program which I will be forever grateful for. Although I applied for the counseling program, I never realized that I’d not processed the grief and trauma of my childhood until I met Dr. Nancy Murphy and attended one of her classes. Once I’d sat in her class, I was hooked and would be fortunate to be an intern there at NWFL working with the women and children.

While at the Seattle School, I not only completed a degree in counseling, but I also obtained a certificate in domestic violence advocacy. During my time at the Seattle School, two individuals that I was most inspired by were Dr. Nancy Murphy who taught the DV course and Dr. Caprice Hollins of Cultures Connecting who taught the Multicultural Counseling course. I continue to be inspired by them both to this day and will forever consider them to be mentors. They both genuinely cared and helped guide and encourage me while in the program at Mars Hill and beyond. I also feel in some way that God placed them in my path to not only guide me toward my career, but to help heal some of my brokenness as they modeled genuine love and compassion even in difficult times and spaces.

I believe it is for this reason that I ultimately came to a place where I now teach about the issues of power and control which is the root of both domestic violence and racism. I feel blessed to be able to engage individuals in teaching and learning opportunities that support diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice. I have been able to continue to do this within my full-time role as faculty at Walden College in the Clinical Mental Health Department as well as in an affiliate role at Northwest Family Life Learning and Counseling Center.

In Honor of my Mom, Minnie Lee Williams. Thank you for being you!

Kristie Williams, PhD, LPC