Day 46 – Charlotte’s Story
I have a vivid memory. I was lying in my bed and listening to my dad physical abusing my mom. I could hear her crying and asking him to stop. I was crying in my bed, holding my ears trying to drown it out. What took me away from it was my singing.
They divorced. Dad moved away and took a job in New Jersey and we lived with my mom.
My mom had become disabled from a job on an assembly line; we were on the poverty line. Dad didn’t pay support consistently. There were times that we had no money and no heat.
In school I became a real over achiever. I wanted my mom’s attention. I had an older brother and 2 younger brothers, and mom seemed to have the most anger and hostility towards me, yet I was doing the most for her. She met a man and she would go away on his boat. She’d leave me to look after the younger boys. She wouldn’t call much and I was worried that she wasn’t okay. We had no food or anything and she didn’t call.
There came a point where I got involved with a boyfriend. I was 15 and he was 21. It was a very controlling relationship and I couldn’t see what was wrong. It became an intimate relationship, it was inappropriate for a 15 year old. The truth is that it was constant rape, not violent just forced.
It went on for 8 months until finally my mother put a stop to it. I had thought that he was someone who loved me and cared about me. I was devastated. I had believed I was unlovable. A few months later a family friend told me my mom was found having sex with my boyfriend.
Then she left us for another man. He was about 17 years younger than her. I was left to become the parent. At some stage she came back for my youngest brother who was 9. Eventually my father went to get my brother; Mom’s boyfriend pulled a gun on my father in front of my brother. He brought him back to me. Dad quit his job, moved back and tried to take care of us. He always struggled with money.
I went to community college, got a qualification and got married at 23. I got pregnant soon after and my first son was born in 1993. Three months later my oldest brother was murdered.
My brother was very close to my Aunt, she he was like a mother to him. She was married earlier and had a son who was run over by a school bus. She divorced and began a relationship with a woman. My brother and aunt worked in the same college; they had come home and were ambushed by her partner’s ex-lover. She and an accomplice killed my brother and then tortured and killed my aunt.
I know all the details because my aunt tried to call 911 but the woman had cut the phone line. By the grace of god it triggered the answering machine and it recorded the whole murder on tape. It made it easy to identify them.
The court cases, hearings and trials took years. I was the spokesperson for the family, I had to stay strong. It was a year to the date of the murders when I experienced, what I found out later was, an anxiety attack which sent me into a deep depression.
This was the start of therapy and medication and it really forced me to come to terms with what had happened in my life. I had been overcome by post -traumatic stress.
I knew that I wanted more from my life.
I knew that I didn’t have to be a victim of my circumstances.
After my brother was killed my father changed, he became a different man. His anger subsided and he did whatever he could, especially with me (his only daughter) to make right what he had done. He never gave up. If I pushed him away, he always came back, came after me and made it right.
I have no idea where I got my voice from, no one else in the family sings. It’s something I always knew I had inside me; it was my way to connect to me. Singing was always my dream; now it has come true, I’m a professional singer. A while ago, I won a contest and sang the national anthem for the New York Giants football team. Having a dream is what has helped me get through all this.
As tragic as the murders were and everything else that has happened in my life, good has come out of it. They have created who I am today; successful in business and a professional singer. I have a blessed life.
There are still parts of the story that I haven’t been able to share, particularly the sexual part. It still feels very painful, I feel shame and embarrassment. It has held me back from being fully self- expressed, from being able to be myself, to give of myself. I’m still coming to terms with it, trying to get the idea out of my head that I am to blame, that I’ve done something wrong.
I don’t have a relationship with my mother though we’ve tried on and off. She has an addiction problem, she’s a pathological liar, she’s not the kind of person I usually let into my life.
I know she did as well as she could, that she had issues of her own. She had many opportunities to get help and she chose not to take them. She chose to see it as ‘my life stinks and you should feel sorry for me’; it’s the opposite of who I am. I feel some shame when I realize that I don’t have a place in my heart for her. It’s hard for me to accept that she’s my mother.
I had built a wall around me to protect myself and now I’m beginning to take it down. It’s a mission for me to let others know that they are loved just the way they are. That they are good enough. That they do not have to be a victim of their circumstances.
I show compassion and empathy towards others, I believe there’s good in everyone.
Perhaps my healing will be complete when I can feel that about my mother.