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The Untold Story of Sibling Abuse

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Editor's Note

If you have experienced physical or emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

I was well aware of the word abuse, the different types and some of the lasting effects of it. Was I aware of my own abuse I endured and was silent about? Not until I got pregnant and felt I wanted to protect this growing life inside of me, even from myself.

I was already on a journey to discover what true freedom and happiness was. Little did I know the chains that bound me were not recognized. I was fighting for something with no clue of what was holding me back. I thought it was truly from my parents and their lack of presence that led me to be an angry, volatile, sensitive adult. I was chipper, bubbly and nurturing on the outside, but I knew something dark brewed inside of me. I did my best to just push it down into the depths of my own prison, but eventually my own desire to liberate myself led to seeing things for what they were. This is my story of sibling abuse and the toll it took on me.

My parents came to America when they were young, both around 23 years old. They came to a land where they didn’t know the language and were highly unprepared for the two babies that were to be born. They did what they could to make ends meet to discover the prosperity this land offered. This led to my older brother and I being left with my grandparents and oftentimes alone. From the age of 9 or 10, we were what is considered “latchkey kids.” We prepared ourselves for school in the morning and went to the bus station alone, unsupervised. When we got home, we let ourselves in and ate what we could, including snacks and food my mother prepared prior to leaving for work early in the morning. Having so much time spent with my older brother, he was probably told to watch out for me and take care of me. We were alone together a lot, and it led to many moments of absolute terror and heartache I never revealed until now, 30 years later.

I always knew my brother felt things were unfair between us. He always told me our parents loved me more than him. He made it a point to take away what they gave me to balance the scales of his injustice. He made games up that seemed fun in my young mind, but the rules always favored him to win. He took what he could and hurt when he could. He would tell me to do something, knowing I would get punished. He would laugh and snicker out of the line of sight of my parents after I would get spanked or slapped. Indian rug burns were something that seemed to bring him joy, probably because they hurt but never left evidence. Starting in elementary school, I started closing off and was content with my books and sitting quietly in my room. I was thought to be smart and mature, so I was just given more books and other things to keep me busy.

When I sought protection, I would run between my mother’s legs, but he would still get me with a silent pinch. She never did anything to make me feel safe and he always got around her to get me. She never reprimanded him. She just stood working over the stove, most likely exhausted from her life of nonstop responsibilities as a young, confused mother. My father was out getting drunk most of the time, so I seldom saw him and would see him as a god who loved me and nothing else.

I would witness them fighting sometimes and recall how my dad would get physical with my mom. But that never stopped me from blaming him. This is how it continued until my parents divorced and I was given a choice by my mother to stay with her or go with Dad. Because she was asking, I said her. If my father asked, I would have said him. So, when I was 11 or 12 years old, they split up.

Now, my mother with two young children attempted to start her life again. Single working mother meant nobody at home still. We were clothed and fed, but there was nobody to guide us, nobody to help us, nobody to protect us. The abuse continued. Death glares from across crowded rooms and mouthing words like, “you’re dead” and, “wait til we get home” became a regular thing.

The pinches turned into slaps and punches. When my body started developing, squeezing my breasts so hard until I screamed and kicks between my legs were added to my “punishment.” One time, I got a bloody nose and I cried, so it got on the carpet. I wanted my mother to see what he was doing to me while she was gone. He saw there was evidence, so his tactics changed. Leave no evidence behind. After every assault, he would tell me he loved me and blood was thicker than water. He guilted and shamed me if I spoke out against what he was doing and tried to get help. As a child, only wanting acceptance and validation from my brother, I accepted this to be part of a “normal” life. Everyone else went through this too, right?

By the age of 14, my brother introduced me to and supplied me with cigarettes, marijuana, alcohol, ecstasy, shrooms and acid. We would do these drugs together some of the times, but I eventually did it on my own and with my friends at school. Little did I know, it was just another way to hurt me. I was even offered cocaine and crystal meth, but I stuck with cigarettes and marijuana that I used on and off for 16 years of my life. In a haze, I grew up unaware of the brick wall I was building around myself. I was unsuccessful in maintaining relationships with friends, boyfriends and my own family. And at the age of 15, I attempted suicide. I no longer wanted to endure this misery called life. When I got back from the hospital, he looked at me disdainfully, called me a bitch and said I just wanted attention.

I tried to even run away at one point when I was 16. I was happy to be away from the house. But my parents eventually got to me, and I went back home. When I went into my room, my mattress was flipped with sheets ripped off. My books were all torn apart and precious things were destroyed. My school books had swastikas and nasty words sharpied inside of them, knowing I would have to turn them back in. If he couldn’t destroy me, he would destroy everything around me.

Even through all of this, my parents urged me to continue talking to and having a relationship with him. He’s my brother and family, so it was so important to stay with him. They didn’t know the depths of pain and fear I had inside of me. I would lash out at my mother and call her horrible names. I even started hitting her when she tried to stop me from running away. I was so bitter toward her and she was so confused. She wanted so badly to have a relationship with me. Where had her little girl gone? Where was the love that once shined so bright for Mommy? Why had I become such a nasty person?

My dad was only around once in awhile to drop money off and say, “I love you” and remained the “nice” parent. He had no clue how to handle the things my mother reported to him. Til this day, he can’t have a difficult conversation without cutting me short and ending it.

When I reached 35, I was sick and tired of my mother trying to press my brother to me. I tearfully told her why I couldn’t be around him and she had a look of shock on her face. She held me for the first time in years and said she was so sorry and she didn’t know it was like that. She’s kept him away from me, but won’t talk about it again, telling me I should just stop dwelling on it. That’s her way of coping and repressing. Which I realize now is not my job to change or fix.

I read through the effects of abuse at the age of 39 after a deep conversation with my partner. I sat quietly and sadly as I realized I am all those things. I am distrustful, depressed, fearful, anxious, angry, shameful, guilt-ridden, anorexic, insecure, people-pleasing, have a sense of worthlessness and prone to panic attacks. I see clearly with tears in my eyes of what I have become. This gives me clarity and strength to overcome, to no longer be a victim to my past. My past will no longer have its claws chaining me to misery and helplessness. I choose now. I choose me.

Unsplash image by Chad Madden

Originally published: April 30, 2021
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