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Behind Closed Doors

12 Oct

Believe it or not, domestic violence happens and it could be happening to someone you know. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

I was hoping to find an expert to write this blog but I thought maybe a real experience may show that it can happen anywhere. This is not a personal story in the fact that it happened to me but it is a story of a young boy I knew many years ago.

As a naive 23-year-old, I was assigned to teach second grade classroom in a middle-class suburban neighborhood on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. I was thrilled that I, as the newbie, didn’t receive an inner city assignment where I was sure many problems existed. My naivety came to a crashing halt in what I thought would be a promising school year.

In my classroom sat a young boy, Sam*, with huge brown eyes, chestnut colored hair, and freckles splattered across his little nose. I knew his father was having difficulty finding a job but his parents seemed nice, and were interested in how he was doing in school. Sam always tried hard, did average in most subjects but never seemed to be overly motivated to do better. Sam smiled periodically but always looked like his mind was somewhere else.

At one point during the year, something happened and he wanted to see the school counselor. After all of these years, I still can’t remember the reason why he asked to see her. Later that day, the counselor asked if we could sit down to talk about Sam. I was sure she was going to tell me that he was really struggling with his work and was overwhelmed.

Unfortunately, what the counselor told me was beyond my comprehension. Sam was being abused at home and the story got worse. The night before, Sam and his little brother, opened a can of corn and ate it straight from the can. That was their supper. As the night went on, the father began to chase the mother around the house with a gun screaming that he was going to kill her while the children watched. When the father finally settled down, the mother, high on drugs, sat on the couch with a knife at her wrists threatening to commit suicide, also as the children watched. Finally, the night ended up with Sam getting beaten on his back and legs by his father. The counselor told me that little Sam, had several large, fresh bruises on his body and some that were in stages of healing. I couldn’t believe it. How could I not know? No wonder he always looked like his mind was somewhere else and he was struggling in school. My heart was broken for this child.

This story has stayed in my heart for years and I often wonder what happened to Sam; always hoping that the cycle of domestic violence ended with him. I wish I could say that this was the only case of domestic violence I saw in my teaching career, but it wasn’t and I found that it can happen anywhere.

Domestic abuse described by the National Domestic Abuse Hotline as “a behavior in a relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.”┬áThis month, I hope you will learn more about domestic violence to help someone else or help yourself.

*Sam’s name was changed for this blog.

National Domestic Abuse Hotline






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