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Breaking the Cycle

I can't remember when it started, but I know I was about two when he came into our lives.

My mother Renee, and father, Charlie, split up when I was just three weeks old. My mom always said my dad was a great person, but she only married him to get away from her controlling parents. It wasn't out of love, and no matter how hard she might have tried, she simply never developed feelings for him.

They tried making it work, but how could it when it was always only one sided? Apparently, my dad was so heartbroken that he cut both of us out of his life for good. That was my mom's excuse for him anyway - that if he couldn't have both of us, then he didn't want just one, because it only served as a reminder of what he'd lost.

My mom met Phil when I was about two. I can't remember anything from my childhood until I was about four, but oh how I wish I remembered nothing until he left our lives when I was seven.

I can't recall the specific time when it started or how long it had been going on, but my first memory from my childhood wasn't a pleasant one.

He was shouting at her. I was supposed to be in bed, but had been woken up by the yelling that was happening down stairs. Creeping to the top of the stairs with my best friend, Herman - a stuffed white polar bear I was given by my grandparents when I was a baby - wrapped tightly in my arms. I was so scared, that I'm not even sure why I even went to the stairs. As a child, nothing is rational though, is it?

As I cautiously peeked through the banister from my place on the top step, and into the front room, the sight was terrifying. My mother was curled up in a ball on the floor against the sofa. Phil was towering over her with a look of pure hatred on his face as words of fury spewed from his mouth at her. I don't remember exactly what his words were, but I do remember the sickening crunch sound as his boot collided with her ribs. He stormed out of the room towards the stairs; I knew I should run and hide in my bedroom, but I was frozen to the spot where I crouched. I didn't even realize I was crying until he passed me on the stairs sneering at me for my 'pathetic tears'. That was the first night I remember hugging my mom on the floor as we both cried.

It became a regular nightly occurrence - Phil would come home from work smelling of liquor, shouting and screaming, and then beat my mother. After mom cleaned herself up, she would come to my bedroom, curl up in my little bed with me, and apologize constantly through her tears until we both fell asleep.

When I was about five, I remember coming home from school and sitting on the sofa with my mom. I'd never been popular at school, I was quiet and shy - I preferred being alone. There was a boy in my class named Mike who was always really mean to me. It started with name calling and snide comments, but had progressed to him hitting or tripping me up at any opportunity. I didn't question it, because it was normal for boys to hurt girls, right?

That particular day, he'd knocked into me as I walked up the steps to class. He pushed me into the stair railing, and instantly my side began to throb. It was really painful, and as my mother put her arm around me to have a cuddle before the hectic evening began, she noticed me wince. She asked what the matter was. I just shrugged, told her what had happened and showed her my bruised ribs. That was the first time I realized that maybe it wasn't acceptable for men to beat on women. My mom was furious about what had happened, but consumed with guilt as she sadly explained to me that behavior of that type wasn't right, and shouldn't be tolerated.

That night's beating was one of the worst I'd ever witnessed, and I couldn't help but think maybe I was partly to blame.

My mother went to the principal the next day and fortunately, the bullying stopped. Not having to worry about Mike anymore allowed me to make a couple of friends, but I still preferred to be alone most of the time.

Over the next year or so, life carried on in much the same way. I was mom's best friend, and she was mine. Nothing was ever kept from me, mom told me everything and I sometimes wondered how she felt about that. The police were called several times, but my mother always refused to press charges, instead settling for Phil being sent away for the night.

My sixth birthday was the best day of my young childhood. My mother invited all of my friends over and we enjoyed watching a magician and eating all of the lovely food that my mom had spread out for us in the backyard. The magician called me up to be his assistant, giving me a red sock to place into his washing machine. He told me to turn the handle on the side, and when I took the sock out of the machine, and I was amazed to find it three times its original size! Phil was loving toward my mom the whole day, and I thought maybe things would be different from that day on. They weren't, and it didn't take long for me to realize it was all an act.

My mother was still hurt pretty much every other night- sometimes just emotionally, but most times the abuse was physical.

Phil's behavior carried on for the next year, but the last straw for mom was a week after my seventh birthday. I had been at school all day and was really happy with how well my grades were doing. I ran inside, dancing around as I told my mom all about how my teacher had praised me in front of the whole class. I didn't notice Phil on the couch until an ashtray smashed against the wall above my head, covering me in shards of glass. My mother quickly but silently took me straight upstairs, helping me change and making sure I was uninjured, with all the glass out of my hair. With a serious and somewhat anxious look on her face, she told me to stay upstairs and not come down no matter what I heard. Quietly she closed my door and I heard her slow decent down the staircase.

I instantly heard raised voices - crashing and other loud noises as things were thrown about. I remained on my bed with Herman until I heard my mother scream. I'm not sure why I thought this was different than any other night, but before I even realized what I was doing, I had crept to the top of the stairs like I usually did. Instead of watching through the railings, I went silently into my mom's bedroom and called the police.

Sitting on my mom's bed for what felt like hours, but were probably mere minutes, I soon heard sirens and then a loud banging on the front door, followed by shouts coming from outside. I crept to the stairs just as Phil opened the door, and watched as the police instantly tackled him to the ground and then handcuffed him.

Once I knew Phil couldn't get to me, I ran down the stairs and found mom curled up on the kitchen floor. A female officer I hadn't seen enter the house was next to her, trying to console and comfort her. My mother's face was swollen and there was blood everywhere - on her face, her hands, her arms, and even a small puddle underneath her right side. The officer was on her walky-talky saying something about an ambulance.

I don't really remember much after that, at least not until my mom and I returned home from the hospital the next day. That day she promised me that Phil would never be coming back - she was pressing charges. She explained that seeing him almost hurt me was the last straw, and that asking him to leave was what made him behave so violently. When I was older, I found out he'd attacked her with a knife, saying if he couldn't have her then no one would. Lucky all her wounds were superficial but to this day she still has scars as evidence of that horrible night.

Throughout the next ten years of my life, I didn't realize how my young childhood had affected me. I was aggressive and mean to every boy at school. I had quite a few friends, both male and female, but I was loud and never really followed rules at school. I never did anything completely outrageous, but I was always in detention for one thing or another. The boys knew I reacted violently towards them for the smallest of things, but for some reason they accepted that. They seemed to enjoy teasing me until I reacted. I didn't know how lucky I was to have people like them around me. At the time, I just thought they were all jerks.

This continued until I was 17. I had been friends with Edward throughout my junior and senior years at school. He was different from most of the other people I hung around with; he was quieter and more reserved, but had a heart of gold. He was very attractive but rarely dated, choosing to spend weekends and after school hours with me. Are relationship slowly progressed from best friends to boyfriend and girlfriend. We never really had a conversation about our relationship; it just seemed to be a natural progression.

We'd had a few drinks one Saturday night at my house, and after everyone else had gone home Edward stayed behind to help me clean up. We had a few more drinks and ended up in bed together - losing our virginity to each other. It wasn't romantic, but sloppy and painful. That's how our relationship started.

Edward and I had been together for just under a year when I became pregnant. We were stupid and naive when it came to contraception, and like most teenagers thought it would never happen to us. I'd never been particularly violent towards Edward but he had witnessed my behavior plenty of times however, as my pregnancy progressed, my violent outbursts became more frequent and more violent.

One night about a week after out baby boy, Tom, was born Edward asked me if I'd sterilized the bottles yet. I flipped out, hitting him again and again until he finally got the upper hand, laying me down on the hard wood floor. He straddled my hips and held my arms above my head, purely out of protection for himself. For some unknown reason, it caused me to have a panic attack. Edward let go of me immediately and pulled me to his chest, telling me over and over again that I was okay, until finally I calmed down.

That night we sat up together, I told him everything about my childhood - something I'd never spoken about before. Edward tended to Tom each time he awoke for a feeding, and then would come straight back to me, pulling me into his arms and holding me close each time my emotions became too much for me to talk over. That night he convinced me to see a counselor, telling me that as much as he loved me, we couldn't continue the way we were. He also said if I didn't get help he would leave me and take Tom with him. Regardless of his feelings for me, he wouldn't let history be repeated for our child. I had never thought about how my actions were creating a vicious cycle for the next generation. I made a promise to myself to not let that happen.

We also finally spoke openly about us. He admitted fancying me at school and how much he loved me before we even had sex. That night I realized I truly loved him too. I have no idea when it happened, but I knew with every fiber of my being that I loved him and couldn't imagine my life without him.

After agreeing with Edward, I went to the doctor the next day and started counseling a week later. It was hard to open up at first, but after six weeks of a one hour session each week, I could see the difference in myself. I slowly came to the realization that my recent behavior was a result of my built up guilt and anger at my mother and Phil. I'd never dealt with what I had witnessed, and although I knew their relationship was unhealthy and I hated myself for becoming like Phil, it was the only relationship I'd ever known. Through counseling, I learned how to deal with my past and never laid a hand on Edward again. Having a heart to heart with my mom also helped a lot. I may never understand why she thought she deserved the way she was treated, but I kind of understood how his manipulation and control kept her there.

I was one of the lucky ones. Many children who survive a childhood like mine become victims themselves later on in adult relationships. People forget how traumatizing it is for the children involved. Many moms think their children are too young to understand, and as long as they're not getting hurt, then things are fine. That's not the case.

I stood in the door way and watched Edward cradle Tom, singing him to sleep quietly, before I headed to bed. Curling up in our big bed, I waited for Edward to join me, almost having fallen asleep when I finally felt him crawl in behind me. I rolled over, cuddling up to my husband and placing my head on his chest, my arm over his hips as he gathered me close with his arm around my waist. We whispered words of love and affection before eventually falling asleep. This was love, what life was supposed to be like. I would be forever grateful to Edward for showing me the real meaning of a loving relationship.