Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

On a typical day, 20,000 phone calls are made to domestic violence hotlines nationwide. On a typical day, 20,000 people are asking for help, and this does not include those who remain silent. On a typical day, it is very likely that a mother is terrified for her children.

I was very lucky, in terms of my experience in abuse. My abuser and I were not married, and thank god, we had no kids. I cringe every time I consider how awful it would be to have children in an abusive situation, because protecting myself was hard enough.

I spent four years being emotionally, verbally, and physically abused. As a psychology student, you think I would’ve seen it coming, but abuse does not discriminate. It starts with careful manipulation and grooming, and many abusers are some of the most charismatic individuals you’ll ever meet. I never noticed the abuse until it was too late, and by the time the first punch came, I was already convinced that I deserved it, and that I was at fault.

Now, as a mother to a beautiful little girl, I am terrified.

I can’t even breathe thinking about how I am going to protect her. I don’t consider myself to be stupid by any means, and I am not even sure how I landed myself in an abusive relationship. So how do I teach my daughter, and future children, how to avoid what I couldn’t?

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and I try to speak on behalf of those who are silent. It is still very hard for me to come to terms with the abuse I experienced, and only recently was I honest with myself about my current PTSD. I feel shame in speaking about it, because it makes others uncomfortable. I get frustrated speaking about it, because people don’t understand. I get angry speaking about it, because there is rampant victim-blaming and few solutions. Now, as a mother, I’m at a loss for where to begin when it comes to discussing domestic violence with my daughter.

It has changed how I parent.

When I dreamt about motherhood years ago, it was picture perfect and full of play dates and friends. Now, I am constantly on the defense for abusers that may never appear. Will I recognize a harmful relationship in my daughter’s future? Will I be able to talk openly with her about it, or will she push me away? Will I be able to teach her to protect herself, and will she use the lessons she learns? I dread Hallie getting older and being thrust into the complexities of relationships that are just a part of life, because what if? What if someone convinces her she is less than?

I am determined to raise a fierce child. My parenting is now focused entirely on teaching my daughter to believe she is GREAT. That she is the most perfect version of herself. I don’t know the mother I would have been outside of abuse, but I am grateful for the mother it has created. I wonder if I would have made excuses for the poor behavior of others, and encourage Hallie to be gentle. Now, I will still encourage Hallie to be kind, but she won’t be taking any crap. I am doing my best to strike a balance (aren’t we all), but it’s harder than I thought it would be.

The worst part about speaking to my family about domestic violence is that I feel like the clock is ticking. The words of my abuser still ring in my head, and although I can say that I know it wasn’t my fault, I still blame myself. Even though I say the words “I’m safe” there are still days I fear for my life. I am trying desperately to heal, because I want to say with certainty to my daughter that it is not her fault, and not be a hypocrite.

As a mother, I also didn’t expect to be struggling with mental illness, but it is a reality for many. Domestic violence came with a lot of baggage, and motherhood is hard without even considering PTSD and other illnesses like it. But here I am, still kicking ass. Despite mental illness, despite domestic violence, I can say with certainty that I am an awesome mother. The abuse is a piece of me, but it does not define me.

I force myself to talk about the abuse.

I never imagined domestic violence being a conversation in my household. Of course, everyone talks about how you shouldn’t hurt others, or let them hurt you, but what about the complexities of gaslighting? What if the hurt is packaged to look like love? What if you’re in love with a sociopath?

I force the conversation for my daughter. For all the little boys and girls out there, who are likely to be sexually assaulted, harassed, or abused. For the mothers that do have children in an abusive situation, and don’t know what to do. I talk about the abuse because it deserves attention. I will never tell my daughter that she is only being picked on because the boys like her, or that the girls are jealous. I want Hallie to be educated so that she can educate others, and I desperately want Hallie to never have to endure the horrors I did. I want her to be safe. I know that domestic violence is only a small piece of protecting her, but I don’t think it’s a conversation that is had as often as it should be.

I am not the mother that I thought I would be, but I’m using the negativity in my life to encourage positivity in my daughter’s. Any mistakes I make are fuel for the lessons she will learn, and even though she will make her own mistakes, she is going to have a huge safety net of support and knowledge.

For the mothers out there in an abusive relationship: you deserve happiness too. Abuse is not always physical. There is a way out. There are resources that can help. You are not alone. If you need help, or just someone to talk to, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233.