My Mother is a Survivor

By Jenn Rockefeller

According to Domestic Shelters, each year, an estimated 3.3 million children witness domestic violence against their mothers.

How is it that so many children witness domestic violence each year? What happened to the image we hold of families with the white picket fences and perfect, happy home?

Growing up, we often think of our mothers as strong, invincible and unbreakable. They may work, have full-time jobs, and do their best to keep a clean house. They seem to have it all.

How is it then that the images we hold of our mothers can become shattered? That image of a perfect, happy home isn’t so happy after all. It shatters rather quickly when we see our mothers become involved in abusive relationships.

How can this strong woman have gotten involved in such a thing?

But this strong woman – your mother – survived an abusive relationship. I know what you are going through. My mother is a survivor, too. I witnessed my mother being abused. It wasn’t physical abuse, but domestic violence encompasses many forms of abuse, not just physical. My mother was emotionally, mentally, and financially abused.

Despite the hardships and effects of these relationships, our mothers have come out on top. They have persevered and shown incredible strength. That’s what Leci said of her mother, Elizabeth.

From her mother, Leci learned that “nothing in life can stop you no matter how hard it can be and how much is against you. There is nothing you can’t do. No one can take that from you.”

“Through her incident, she has shown and taught that me that even in the worst times there is still a reason to smile and keep going. She has taught me about the importance of speaking up about domestic violence. I’ve become active and advocate with my mom to bring awareness to domestic violence, sexual assault, and teen dating violence,” Madison said of her mother, Tara.

My mother once said to me that she felt like there was a purpose for her going through what she did. She said it was to prepare her for helping me through the aftermath of my own abusive relationship. But, she said, she doesn’t consider herself a survivor at times because of an ongoing issue with a few people in her life. She said, “I do not feel much like a survivor. Everyone survives in their own way at their own speed, and I do refuse to let (the few people) be the death of me. It gets my creative juices flowing!”

My mother’s situation taught me one very important lesson – not to abandon those closest to you because they will be there for you through whatever hardships you face. For Leci, she said her mother Elizabeth taught her to cherish the healthy relationships. “It showed me how to recognize red flags on my own relationships.”

For Madison, she said that her mother’s situation taught her to be more aware. “I would say her situation did teach me things about relationships when it comes to warning signs and the cycle that goes with domestic violence. Overall though, I think it has really just made me more cautious and aware of relationships.”

No one big lesson came out of it for my mother. She just said that her “survival mode” kicked in. “No matter what [my abuser] did or said, I instinctively had to survive for you and your brother. I was not aware of any survival mode. It was explained to me as just innate strength.”

We all have powerful adjectives that describe our mothers. I would say my mother is resilient. Leci described her mother as being incredible. She said she couldn’t describe her mother any other way. Madison described her mother as inspirational.

“My mom is my best friend. She’s a loving, powerful, and so positive. All of which I don’t think I could be if I went through half of what she did. She’s always there for me and my sister and would do absolutely anything for us just to be happy. She’s the most unselfish person I know; she’s always putting others first. She’s the best mom ever! I am so grateful every day for her just because I know she was in an awful situation that could have ended worse than it did,” said Madison.

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