Abuse Begets Abuse — for my daughter

Always the good daughter before
Transformed into a mean teen overnight
Wary as a wounded bobcat
After HIS first visit to my room

Cruel, sudden reckoning
Trust no one – it’s an unsafe world
My stepdad; what’s he thinking?
He’s meant to protect me from deeds like this

No way out, but to endure
Bedtimes defiled – HIS bad stuff
Finally leaving home, leaving HIM
Years spent spinning my wheels

A decade later still so outraged
Self destructive, emotions cauterised
A workaholic in control by day
A reckless zombie some nights

Then suddenly someone
I had always been able to talk to
And been seeing on and off for years
Slowed me down long enough

To wistfully unpack my old dream
Dust it off; finally find the courage to give it flight
Part of a happy family, with someone to watch over me
We married after our baby’s birth

Foolish woman I should’ve known
It couldn’t work, for as long as I could remember
I’d always thought I must be rotten, a bad seed
It was only a matter of time before he too found out

That’s why I stayed
Long after the first blow
I accepted the truth – that I was somehow to blame
For all the horrible things that kept happening to me

How I amazed myself – brutal kicks, black eyes
Even the shame, I could endure anything
As long as this otherwise fine man
Didn’t walk out on unworthy, unlovely me

And the years weren’t all bad, life went on
Then one day in class our nine year old
Showed her best friend her bruise
Next the headmistress was asking who dealt it out

The police were called in
Found her dad had a record of abusing me
Said if I stayed they’d take our daughter away
So her and I left – otherwise I’m sure I’d probably still be with him

Or dead . . . But this tale is not yet done
By then a series of tragic scenes on a future stage were already set
The leading role cast; the performance worked out
For the one who witnessed all the attacks in her own house

My beautiful daughter, only twenty-something now
Yet many times already beaten
By not one, but both of the abusers
She has chosen to love so far

I should have left when it started
Perhaps I would have found it easier
If I’d known back then that it wasn’t only about me
Beloved child, my heart weeps. This was never a legacy I wanted to leave

Sue Botes 2009

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