Scarred? Where is the par­ent in you?

New Haven Register (Sunday) (New Haven, CT) - - OPINION - “I wanted to run in there and tell him to stop beat­ing my sis­ter. But I was scared. I wasn’t big enough yet, not strong enough yet, not smart enough yet to help — and I was afraid he would come JAMES af­ter me, too.” WALKER James Walker is the Reg­is­ter’s

A lit­tle more than four years ago, I wrote my sec­ond col­umn for the Reg­is­ter. It was about my jour­ney out of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and it pretty much sig­naled to read­ers I was go­ing to be a dif­fer­ent kind of Sun­day colum­nist.

The col­umn gave read­ers a glimpse in­side a house­hold where do­mes­tic vi­o­lence roared and left long­time con­se­quences for the chil­dren in­volved.

But that col­umn gave read­ers the short ver­sion be­cause the long ver­sion of the jour­ney was not fit for news­pa­per print and the words would not have rested easy on reader’s eyes.

So, a lot more was left un­said then was told.

This col­umn did not ap­pear in Oc­to­ber, which is Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Month, be­cause do­mes­tic vi­o­lence can’t be re­duced to a 30-day sum­mon­ing of the guard when the guard needs to be on watch for the 365 days a year that women and chil­dren — and some men — are phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally abused.

Whether it is hap­pen­ing in the beach­side homes of up­scale com­mu­ni­ties or in the cold, con­crete walls of ur­ban pub­lic hous­ing in New Haven or Bridge­port, the black-and-blue bruises of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence are on the rise lo­cally and na­tion­ally — and dead­lier than ever.

But I am not writ­ing this col­umn to shine a light on abused women and men and I cer­tainly am not writ­ing it to be a blan­ket of com­fort for their fears or low self-es­teem.

But I am writ­ing to ask those vic­tims who are par­ents to find the mother or fa­ther in­side them and save their chil­dren be­fore it is too late.

More than 5 mil­lion chil­dren ev­ery year wit­ness do­mes­tic vi­o­lence — and those dis­turb­ing images and the boom­ing rage that ac­com­pa­nies them are on a reel that re­plays over and over as their brains are de­vel­op­ing and soak­ing up lessons. And as that reel plays, many chil­dren of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence men­tally re­treat and even hide from them­selves.

In my pre­vi­ous col­umn about my long jour­ney, I wrote how dif­fi­cult it was for me to re­birth my­self and find the James Walker — who had been beaten down phys­i­cally, men­tally and emo­tion­ally — that ev­ery­one else saw when they looked at me.

Experts say chil­dren ex­posed to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence are more likely to at­tempt sui­cide (I did, twice), abuse drugs and al­co­hol (been there, done that), run away from home (I did that), and en­gage in teenage pros­ti­tu­tion (I did that).

And it took decades as I did these things to shake the hor­ror of the phys­i­cal blows, the emo­tional trauma and the psy­cho­log­i­cal scar­ring be­fore I be­gan to see the James Walker who ev­ery­one else saw, and be­gan to care what hap­pened to me.

I keep writ­ing the word “decades” be­cause I want par­ents to un­der­stand how long it takes a child of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence to fig­ure out how to fix what has left him or her bro­ken.

Many times, I see par­ents phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally abus­ing their chil­dren and I wish I had a cape and could be their hero and pro­tec­tor. I know what their jour­ney is go­ing to be like and they will need all the sup­port they can get. I also know some vic­tims will never find the good in­side.

As I sit here writ­ing as a sur­vivor, I have learned to live with the scars — even those I have ac­cepted will never heal be­cause I am now big enough, strong enough and smart enough to help my­self.

But I started this col­umn with words from my man­u­script, “Dead Win­dows,” be­cause that is how help­less I felt at age 8 as mis­ery from my fa­ther’s anger and bru­tal­ity raged through the house.

I hope par­ents who stay in do­mes­tic vi­o­lence sit­u­a­tions for what­ever rea­son will read this col­umn for their chil­dren’s sake be­cause, right now, their chil­dren are not big enough, they’re not strong enough or smart enough to help them­selves.

And they should not have to spend much of their life­time try­ing to fix what par­ents broke.

Scarred? Where is the mother or fa­ther in you?

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