Warrior's Voice

Giving Way to My Voice

‘Daddy, why are you so angry? Why do you have to hit me with a belt? If I promise I won’t do it again, do you have to hit me with the belt?’

‘Why does mommy lock herself in the bathroom and cry?’

‘Mommy, what’s wrong? I’m sorry that daddy hit Bill. I’m sorry that Bill made him mad.’

‘Mommy, why does daddy hit us with a belt? It hurts when he hits our backs and our legs.’

‘Get married? I don’t want to get married. I don’t even know if I want to keep the baby.’

‘I don’t want to look at porn. Aren’t I enough? Why do you want to look at that woman instead of at me while we are making love? How is it love, if you need to look at them having sex?’

‘I believe you are the head of the home, the man of the family. I believe that God put you there for a reason. You can make all of the big decisions, but why does that mean I have no say? Can’t I tell you how I feel, why I think what you are about to do is not a good decision for our family?’

‘Wait, you want me to do what?’

‘You want me to be naked in front of a camera that other men are going to be watching?’

‘It’s okay, because it is in our marital room and we both agree to it? What if I don’t agree?’

A running list scrolls through my mind as I lay awake at night. I should be sleeping, but I cannot.

Why do I want to write this book?

The question people ask me. The question I ask myself. The need for a simple answer haunting me again. ‘I need to create an elevator speech’, I tell myself for the umpteenth time. A well thought, canned response to the burning question everyone asks.

‘You deserve better than him.’

‘He shouldn’t speak to you that way.’

‘Don’t listen to his words. You are smart. You are beautiful. You have the potential to do great things.’

I have said these things to girls, women I have come across while out for a walk. From a distance I hear her boyfriend, her partner, ridicule her, defiling her with words of hatred. Tearing her down, beating her into submission, not for the first time nor for the last.

I should remain quiet. Mind my own business. I can’t.

I must speak out. I have to defend her. I need to be that person who will speak up for her, to her. Oh, how I longed for someone to speak up for me. To tell me, he was wrong. His words were wrong, I didn’t deserve to be treated that way. No woman deserved to be treated that way. It was not because of my sin. It was not because my heart was not right with God.

If I don’t speak up, who will?

If I give it too much thought, it overwhelms me. I cannot possibly save them all. I understand many do not want to be saved. Some do not know, yet, their need to be saved. Rescued. Many, so many, have tried to leave, only to return. Leaving is hard, unbelievably hard. Going back is easier. I know. How do you help those who do not want to be helped? How do you find those who need and want to be helped? Once you find them, how do you possibly help them? Their needs, all very different, are more than I could take on.

It would be easier to go forward in my own life. To count my blessings and move on. To accept if I am needed, if they come to me, then I will help, if I am able.


It was easier to go back. It was easier to stay. Easier to live with the hidden knowledge that I would most likely die. By his hand or my own.

It was harder to leave. Scarier to step out. Difficult to accept that leaving was my only chance to ever know if what I believed, what I questioned, was right, or wrong.

I left. I survived. I am alive.

That should be enough. Only, it’s not.  A purpose burns within me. It began as the smoldering embers of the fire that destroyed me. The fire of his words. The fire of his beatings. The destruction, the mayhem my daughter and I endured. Furniture broken, plates smashed against walls, hair pulled, evil spewed from his mouth, day after day. The flames put out when we escaped, not turning back, in the middle of the night, one last leaving, never to return.

The embers remain, smoldering, white hot, a reminder of all we survived. His words, his abuse reduced to ash, still there, in our hearts and our minds. For years a reminder, giving me strength to continue on, no turning back. The flames sparked when fear crept in, only to be put out once again through therapy sessions, through new found understanding, healing and love. Fear turned to anger a less vulnerable emotion. Anger raged within, crying out for resolution. Resolution, brought healing, forgiveness. Forgiveness, releasing me from the grip of my past. My pain, my hurt, my shame.

And yet, the embers, the ash remain. Eighteen years later, still there. Time heals all wounds, they say. My physical wounds have healed. Much of my emotional wounds have healed. The embers there, inside my heart, lingering inside my soul are giving way to my voice. They glow when I see abuse, when I fall into my own anger, they ignite when I write. The cries within me, silenced for years, rising up, longing to be heard, to be shared, to fulfill a purpose I have shied away from.

Telling my story, is not to shame my ex-husband. It is not to destroy him. He is but a human with faults and pain of his own. Telling my story is not to hurt his parents, his family, those who knew him. Many of them are family to me, to this day, people I admire, people I love, deeply. Telling my story is not to shame my family, my parents who are deceased, my siblings, who are alive and do not understand my need to share, to tell our family secrets. Telling my story is not for sympathy. I do not long for any one to feel sorry for me.

Telling my story, sharing my life, is to give way to my voice. If my voice can help one woman, awaken her inner voice, strengthen her to get help, to leave, to live. If my voice can help one child, open the eyes and ears of someone in their life who can extend the help they need. If my voice can awaken a young girl seeking love in all the wrong places. If my voice can open the eyes of an abuser to seek help, or a friend to call the abuser out. If my voice can open your eyes to the abuse around you and compel you to use your voice to help even one victim. If my voice can do that, then I must give way to my voice.


Image result for my voice quotes

May the embers of my soul never go out. May they spark in me the fire to speak up, to speak out. May them embolden me extend help to someone in need. May they live on, in others, long after I am gone.

Family and Pets

Under the Quilt of Love

My childhood memories are few and far between . I have a small selection of snapshots of memories, mostly ones of pain and suffering that my father put our family through. Some are literally a photo that has been shared with me and a story to go along with it. I do not recall the memory but can hold on to the story that connects with the photo. Most of my life is stored away in a vault in the deep recess of my mind. Coping mechanism, that is what my therapist calls it. That is not to say that my entire childhood was bad. I know that those close to me who lived in the same houshold would likely cry out, “How can you say this? How can you not recall the good times we had?” My response would be, I don’t know. I can’t explain why the good is locked away and only the bad, the pain stands out strong. I believe it has something to do with the fact that I am that person. The one that calls out the pink elephant in the room when all around stand quietly by, looking the other way or whispering to someone next to them. I am the one who stops the couple in the park when a teenage boy is verbally assaulting a teenage girl. I am the one that cries out when a young girl is being taught at a very vulnerable time in her life that anger, manipualtion and control are somehow not abuse. Maybe that has something to do with why certain memories stay strong when so many others, good and I know more bad ones too, stay locked away in the vault.

There is one part of my childhood that remains very clear to me. I can vividly see many moments, the seemingly endless hours I spent at my grandma’s house. My safe haven. I don’t know if I called it that as a child. I don’t even know if I knew that is what it was. I just know that I went there whenever I possibly could. One of my favorite memories at Grandma Ruthruff’s house was not a one time event. It was a regular occurrence. Often times when I hopped off of the school bus at the end the day, I would bounce into the house only to drop my backpack and holler, “I’m going to grandma’s house!”

I would run down the street and around the corner to her home. We lived in the same neighborhood just about 10 houses or so apart. Lifting the latch of the chain link fence gate, I would step into her front yard and look to the front door. More often than not the door would be open with the screen door closed. Making sure to latch the gate tight behind me so the dog would not get out, I would rush across the lawn. Leaping over the stump in the middle of the grass from a tree long since cut down, I  reached the screen door in a flash. As I opened the door I would hear my grandma call, “I’m in the kitchen.” No doubt, my mom had called her to say I was on my way. Or maybe she just had a feeling I was coming.

I couldn’t reach her quickly as the entire living room was blocked. A giant obstacle stood between me and the woman who I loved the most, the one that I knew loved me beyond what any child could hope for. There in front of me lay a piece of our family history and one that many of us would cherish for a lifetime. Definitely one that I would never forget, even long after my material memory of it had been thrown in the dumpster by the one person who destroyed nearly everything that I loved and cherished. A framing block, for all I know hand-made, filled the entire space of the front room. The frame was nose to nose with the Davenport, which is what my grandma called her couch, at the one end opposite the TV at the other, from the front window and door all the way to the other side of the room where the my grandma’s rocking chair sat by the telephone (near the kitchen). On the frame was a lovely queen size quilt that my grandma had pieced together herself. First she cut the block pieces, next she pinned the pieces together, then she sewed the pieces together to make squares, then she made rows of the squares that would be sewn in strips., that were finally sewn into a giant quilt. It was a lot of work! Grandma was set to tie this quilt off. She would tie each yarn knot by hand. Most likely with a prayer said while doing so.

I crawled under the frame on my belly army style, until I reached the edge by the kitchen. When I stood up, I saw her. My grandma, standing in the kitchen in her house coat and slippers. We used to call her dresses moo-moos. Or maybe she called them that. Shapeless dresses made of the most simple cotton you could imagine. Nothing fancy, nothing special. Simple, practical, easy to care for. Her grey and frizzy permed hair all a muss, a smile spread across her face as she said, “Come and give grandma a kiss.” Every time I saw my grandma Ruthruff up until the final time I saw her before she died she said the exact same thing, “Come and give grandma a kiss.” She got a kiss and I got a hug. A grandma hug. She would wrap her soft and squishy arms around my entire body and pull me in close to her. Not so tight as to hurt, crush or stifle you, but tight enough that I could think of nothing else but the endless unconditional love she had for me.

There on the cutting board that extended from underneath her kitchen counter, were graham crackers, an orange ceramic bowl of homemade frosting and the box of food coloring sitting next to it. She had waited for me to choose the color for the frosting. I chose yellow. Sometimes she got out some flavorings, lemon and pineapple, and I got choose a flavor too. With the coloring added grandma would spread a generous amount of frosting between two graham crackers. Snack in hand I headed back to the living room. I would carefully crawl under the quilt on the framing blocks, turn on the TV to the PBS After School Special and enjoy my treat. Grandma would go back to tie-ing off the quilt all the while humming one song or another. Songs that she often sang to me while rocking me in the rocking chair when I spent the night on a Friday or Saturday night.

The sweet sound of her voice, the lull of the TV, the loving quilt above me and my home-made snack of graham crackers and frosting. It was all a little girl needed.