Never was one for violence

Adam Griffiths

I don’t buy much into national month celebrations. Besides an excuse to write an otherwise newsless opinion or feature about some phenomenon, I’ve never felt the need to indulge my interest in black history or visit cancer patients in February. It may be ironic that I was born in National Women’s History Month (March), and despite my conviction, I’ve only ever been to one pride celebration during June’s National Gay and Lesbian History month.

But when I attended author Donzella Michele Malone’s presentation of the book she wrote about the murder of her close friend and Kent State alumna Dr. Margo Prade by her own husband, it hit me – I had been a victim of the violence that Tuesday’s program was intended to help prevent.

The event, sponsored by, among others, the Women’s Resource Center and University Health Services, was part of the sessions for National Domestic Violence Month, which begins today.

I can’t exactly remember the first time my mom and stepdad fought, or even if it was an altercation between them that made me afraid of him. My earliest memories of him in my life are violent – screaming between him and my mom, harsh handling of my brother and me whenever we did something inappropriate.

It all culminated last January when I came home from work one Sunday afternoon. My stepdad was in jail. Apparently my brother, who was 14 years old at the time, but not much smaller than his present 6-foot, 2-inches, 285-pound figure, had advanced on my stepdad after some altercation between him and my mom.

It escalated to my mom walking upstairs to my stepdad beating my brother’s head. We had to go to the hospital to get him checked out for social services. I don’t regret much, but I regret the way I overreacted and blew up at my mom during that car ride to the hospital. It was never her fault, but I had never been so unable to direct so much rage in my entire life.

Since then, nothing’s been the same. My brother was physically fine, and my stepdad lived in a hotel through April. There was a restraining order for a few months, but after nearly a year of counseling, things have reached an idle point. Do I still feel uneasy around him? Yes. Do I expect anything to ever change completely? No.

I tried to write this column four years ago at a high school journalism convention and couldn’t bring myself to organize my ideas. Finishing this, I know now why I wasn’t able to collect and focus my thoughts: I was still afraid. I still lived at home. My stepdad was a daily, rather integral part, of my life. I doubt our relationship will ever be anything significant because of that looming veil of what’s transpired behind the closed doors of our home.

At the presentation Tuesday, there were shirts from the Clothesline Project, a nationwide program in which victims and those affected by domestic violence create T-shirts to depict their story. A yellow shirt, denoting a battered and assaulted person, read, “Love me, don’t hurt me.”

Thinking about what my own yellow shirt would read, lyrics from Kelly Clarkson’s “Because of You” come to mind, and I’m reminded just how much a part of National Domestic Violence Month I am, whether I ever wanted to be or not.

“Because of you, I’m ashamed of my life because it’s empty. Because of you, I am afraid.”

Adam Griffiths is a sophomore

information design major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.

Contact him at [email protected]