I am 36 years old and it wasn't until last year that I had that courage to send a letter to my father. I have written many letters in the past but threw them all away. I don't know whether or not you can use my letter on the nospank website but if you can, you have my permission.
I just finished reading your memoir and there is a knot in my throat. It is courageous, poignant and true. I am sure oher readers will be touched deeply also, especially those who'll recognize in it elements of their own histories. That's what makes this so important. For some victims, I believe, the first and essential step toward recovery is to dispel their sense of utter isolation. "Thank You, Dad" does exactly that. You're speaking for many.
I believe your words are the first personal validation I have ever received. My surprise to your response overwhelmed me with emotion. I am eternally grateful to you for your kind words and for this opportunity. You may use my name.
...I remember sitting on my father's lap (ok, now my heart is pounding). I'm not sure how old I was but his hand was down my pants. I think I had just bathed and was wearing pajamas, but I can't be sure. My mother never put underpants on me after a bath. (I used to worry quite a bit after I got a bath, especially when I was wearing a nightgown. I felt so vulnerable. I suppose it has something to do with having to hold up my nightgown so my father could see and beat my bare buttocks with his belt.) I kept squirming to try and get away, all the while trying to be subtle about it so he didn't realize that I was uncomfortable. I was so concerned with his feelings.
I don't remember too much detail and I have questioned myself over and over and over as to whether or not that really happened. I know in my heart that it did, but I guess I just have a hard time accepting and/or dealing with it. I guess I am always afraid that I make too much out of things. Like I said, my memory is very vague and I remember him fondling only my buttocks, but it makes me sick to think about it. It also makes me angry. It makes me wonder if I have other memories - memories that are locked away. I don't know.
I have very clear memories of going to the bathroom while my father was shaving and I felt so uncomfortable about it, but he never offered to leave and it was a way of life for me so I didn't know differently. He used to come over to me and tickle my face with his electric razor and sometimes he would blow warm air my way from the hair dryer - all of this while I was going to the bathroom. I was very self-conscious, but tried to hide it for some reason. Again, I was trying to protect his feelings. I didn't want him to think anything was wrong.
Perhaps, I was afraid of upsetting him. I guess I didn't know what to make of my feelings. Since, he could make me pull down my pants and stand naked from the waist down at any given moment to beat me with his belt, I guess I figured that my body was his to do with what he saw fit and that privacy was not mine to have.
Surely, he knew best and he made a point to tell me that it was going to hurt him more than it was going to hurt me. He always told me he loved me. I believed him. I thought I loved him too. I guess I did once. Who knows? Can a child really know what love is? A child loves his parents, unconditionally, like a beaten dog loves his owner. I know he isn't the devil or anything, and he does have his good qualities, but even the evilest of people can do nice things, when they want.
I have no love for him. I am without a father.
My father would threaten me, beat me, threaten and beat me, whatever the combination, (the threats and actual beatings tend to blur together) for pleading with him not to beat my brother after I had told on my brother. I only wanted my brother to stop doing whatever it was he was doing to me. I didn't want my father to beat him! I always felt so terrible about that. It took such a long time for me to learn - to learn not to go to my father. I also remember my brother laughing while my father beat me. I never understood that.
Sometimes, when my father was force-feeding me, he would threaten to beat me if I didn't stop crying. You know how it goes, "Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about." I was terribly afraid of my father. I would pretend to be asleep as my father stood in my bedroom doorway, staring at me. It was my way of life. I was always so embarrassed by my father making me pull down my pants to expose my bare buttocks so he could watch the snapping of the belt against my bare skin.
Actually, even as a child, I thought that was part of my punishment - to be exposed and humiliated - to be shown how small and undeserving of respect I was and what could be/would be done to me, at will, if I didn't do whatever it was I was supposed to do. I eventually began to look at the welts he would leave by using the little round bathroom mirror. How satisfying that must have been for my father to see the results of his efforts. I guess he showed me. I sure will try harder not to cry the next time he is forcing food into my mouth and I feel like I am going to choke and/or vomit. I did vomit one time, right in my bowl of oatmeal. My father was furious and threatened to make me eat it anyway. Thank God it was an idle threat. And, I'll sure try not to stand up to my brother when he is picking on me. Yes, I really learned my lesson. That snapping of his belt against my skin is a sound I will never forget. "Move your hands" are words I can never forget.
The word "belt" itself instills overwhelming embarrassment and shame to this very day. How humiliated I was! I believe my father truly enjoyed this act of power. I wouldn't be surprised if he came in his pants right in the middle of it. This embarrassment turned into shame and it is this shame that haunts me. I feel violated. I was violated.
Did he really believe I deserved that? Did he really believe that was the best way? Or, was he merely succumbing to his own need to pass down, out of anger, the humiliation that he felt as a child? Did he, indeed, feel this kind of humiliation as a child? Is it his lack of education or intelligence? Perhaps, he is lazy and didn't want to try or learn any other way of parenting. Perhaps, his need to establish control preceded all else. Or perhaps, he enjoyed being cruel. I don't know how to forgive him. I don't even think I want to forgive him. In my mind, forgiving him would be like saying it was ok.
IT WAS NOT OK!
He stripped me of my clothes and with it my dignity and self worth. I don't know how to forgive him for that. He has, of course, never asked for my forgiveness. I can only presume he believes he was a good father. I am still afraid to approach the topic with him, not that I have any contact with him anyway, for fear that he will laugh at me.
That is what shame does to a person. It debilitates, preventing one from facing his/her fears. He used to laugh at me as I obediently brought his belt to him, while I was sobbing at what was about to happen. He used to chuckle and say, "Why are you crying? I haven't even touched you yet."
I can vividly remember standing in front of his belt rack desperately trying to figure out which belt he wanted me to bring to him, trying my best to please him. I was his faithful soldier, always putting his needs before my own. He has rarely shown any regard for my feelings.
As a child, why was I so interested in protecting his feelings? I was beaten for fighting with my brother, which I really had little control over. What was I supposed to do??????? I had to defend myself. When I tried to avoid getting sucked into a battle, I told on my brother with the hopes of a resolution, and then got beaten for telling. If I cried or whined too much, I got beaten for that. What was I supposed to do? I never knew when it was coming and I always took the threats seriously.
Oh, the threats. They were great. "Do you want me to blister your bottom? Do you want the belt? Do you want me to beat you? Do you want me to blister your tail? Do you want a beating?" I just never seemed to know how to avoid it. I just lived the only way I knew how and figured I must be bad and/or not too bright to keep making the same mistakes.
I remember once my brother and I were arguing over a chair in the living room. Actually, my brother instigated the conflict when he began to push the chair in which I was sitting. I continued telling him to stop, stop, stop, but to no avail. My father demanded the truth be told about who started this quarrel and my brother, of course, did not confess. My father calmly told us that he was going to feed both of us hot pepper and we would never be able to talk again. I just couldn't believe my father could do such a thing! He loved me! Surely, he wouldn't do it! I just couldn't understand how he could keep hurting me while professing his love for me. This didn't make sense to me and I was hopelessly confused. He stuck by his story and as I took one look at the door with thoughts of escape, he threatened me once again. So, being afraid, I confessed to something I hadn't done. I can remember no more of the incident.
My heart swells with humility at the thought of the immense and powerful privilege and responsibility God has given to me in regard to the temporary guardianship of my children.
I have children of my own now and have given all of my energy to breaking this chain of humiliating and controlling parenting techniques. I continue to learn just how deeply my childhood has affected me and struggle to replace that which I know from experience by that which I know to be good and decent and logical. Blessed with God's help and my own strong will, I have broken the chain. Unfortunately, I am still bound by this chain but I am the last link. My children do not provide a link in this hurtful chain and therefore, are not bound by it. They are free and I thank God.
Children are not small adults. They deserve more understanding than do adults. They are innocent. In order to grow into healthy and happy adults, they need guidance, understanding and patience. Parenting is not about instant gratification. It is not about control. Expect children to act as children. Teach them, love them and show them mercy and they will grow up to be kind, considerate and loving adults. Compromise their trust and fragile psyches by dismissing their need to be treated with respect and you gamble with their mental health as well as their overall academic and social achievement. It's time we stop assaulting our children in the name of punishment and discipline. To exploit a child's vulnerable body in order to reach his/her vulnerable mind is nothing less than cruel and evil. It's time we stop the humiliating practice of exposing our children's PRIVATE body parts!! WE, AS PARENTS, DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO DO THIS TO OUR CHILDREN!!! Our children need us for protection, not degradation.Dad,
I believe you to be a sadistic bully. I continue to be shamed and humiliated through memory; hence, the punishment you inflicted upon me as a young girl has lasted my entire life.
I believe that part of you is dead inside, limiting your ability to empathize and profoundly feel the pain of others. I feel both contempt and pity for you. Darkness and unenlightenment surround you. I realize I am bound by the love of God to forgive you, yet continue to struggle with this task.
So, I have finally expressed my true feelings, at least some of them. I tell you these things as an attempt to liberate myself from the emotional trauma which you inflicted on me, not as a means to regain contact. This letter is for me, not you.
How courageous you are. To face your demons, and to fight them with the sword of truth.
I only want to let you know, that I have also had my demons to fight. Not just as a child who was 'spanked' (not often, and nothing compared to many of the stories I've heard), but in learning that no child, no matter what or when deserves to be injured in the name of discipline. EVER.
As I read your story, there are tears in my heart. I have gone to my own children, and tried the best I could to repair the damage to our relationship. But I wonder, what could it have been had I known better, had I more self control. The turning point for me were the words "Never hit your child when you are angry....." Like a shock through me, the words out of my mouth were "why would I WANT to hit a child if I weren't angry?" It was like the air had been sucked out of the room.
Thank you for your letter. for your courage and for the knowledge that the chain can be broken.
please tell Pamela for me that she is a brave and articulate person. I am so glad she was able to break the chain of violence with her own kids. We need more people who can testify, as she is, to the state of terror and violation in which so many children live. Parents are so stupid. I saw a woman spanking her son in the bathroom at a movie theatre yesterday. It wasnt a hard spanking, thank God, but I felt frozen by it; didn't know anymore whether to speak to them (it was over too fast for me to get close to try to stop it, as my own parents always did-- they were so brave!)-- to witness as Alice Miller urges, for the child-- or to leave them alone.
I am afraid that after many years as a children's rights activist (my husband has throat cancer, and I am pretty worn out) I'm getting burned out and no longer know how to react, unless the situation is extreme. And yet I know I must continue.
Thank you and thanks to Pamela for keeping this essential work going. Free The Kids! has lost its funding, but my friends and I will continue to speak for kids as we have in one way or another.
Thank you again.
Isabella Fiske McFarlin, Director Emeritus of Free the Kids! Program.
I am deeply moved by Pamela's memoir, letter to her father, and her conviction and courage to parent lovingly without humiliation and hence, her call to action to all parents. I feel the weight of my own isolation and abuse issues as a child that resurface within me as a parent.
I am eager to connect with another mother or father who I can talk to honestly about the challenges and triumphs in raising my (our) children with the awareness and compassion for our children as well as for one another and our selves.
Please, if you would, thank Pamela for me, for her will to break the chains of violence and humiliation, for having the courage to speak honestly and directly, for having the compassion to love herself fully. And if possible, please ask if she would be willing to engage in thoughtful conversations via e-mail with me. If you know of any thoughtful and responsible parenting discussion groups, books to read, workshops or classes to take that I may benefit from please refer me to them.
Thank you once again Jordan for the inspiring work you continue to do.
Great leter ,,,I pray with all my haart for this women ,,who is probly about my age,,,,May God mother earth whomever abouve bless her dearly ,,,and maybe ,,,her father may see the light,,,maybe not,,,i klnow it is hard for her
Again Jorden like the last leter i responded to the other day This leter is from a paerson close to my age and it hits me rite at home,,,,,Simeler situation, I had simeler problems with my family and my sibling + my brother who is now my roommate,,,ironicaly we love each other and live together,, still fight no longer with fists,,,,,He was the younger one 3 yeeers diferent in age, but the more agresive type,,,,always as strage as it sounds piking on me,,,He was just one of those kids who happened to be tough,,,,He was always the touughests kid in the class he was able to take down people 5 yeeers older then him twice his size,,
Non the less neeedles to say i was afraid of him even wen we were both very young,,,,,He would pik on me ,,i would back down from him most of the time ,,becouse i was not only afraid of him i was afraid of geting a beeting from my parents,, Like pamala,,,i leeerned not to stand up top people,,,to this day i hav trouble standing up for my ritghts,, It was so shamefull i hjad to back down from my liotttle brother,,,,if i would tell on him for piking on me they would usssualy lagh at me becouse he was so much yopunger then me,,,but if i would fight back defending myself,,,,mom and or dad would punish me ...saying i hav got to leeern to wacht my temper,,
I leeerned reeel ffast that wachting my temper ment to let people pick on me,,,,and if i didnt let people pick on me i would have to take a punishment,,,,
If u want u can print this leter on your sight if u find it a[poprpriate or sent=d it to pamelea leting her know there r lots of us out here who understand and apreeecteate what she is doing trying to raise her kids gently without using humileation asult or disrespect,...
Your freind Tommy
Ps please emale me regarding how i can buy severel of your booklets so i can participate in passing around your good word of l.ov e for children and hate for violence againsts children,,,