Many people say that I am a strong person. My family always said that I was the weak one. When I was very young, I became numb to the abuse and sexual assault my family and I were experiencing at the hands of my father. I learned very young that if you showed any emotions you were beaten worse. If you became outspoken or emotional during someone else’s beatings you were quickly next in line.
As I got older I learned to live in fear—fear of my father raping me yet again, fear of the vicious beatings, and mostly fear of him crossing that line and finally killing one of us. Because of that fear I gave up college scholarships to stay home and protect my mom. My older brother and sister, who had already moved out of the house, thought that made me stupid. I could have been free from all of the abuse, yet stayed to protect my mom. I don’t know if that makes a person weak or strong, but as a teenager the amount of fear shook me to my core. Maybe that is a weakness.
When I found out in 2003 that both of my parents—but especially my mom—were killed by my brother, I became very distraught and depressed. I couldn’t function in normal daily life. I withdrew and began eight years of internalized pain and solitude. I am sure that is a definition of weakness.
In 2010, I was put on trial for murder after my brother accused me of helping him to kill both of our parents. He was angry at me for agreeing to testify against him, even though I was given no choice. I was subpoenaed by the State of Florida. During my trial, many reporters called me stoic. My supporters called me strong. My attorney and investigator both said that fear for my freedom can’t be called strong or weak. It is a reality to have mixed emotions and overwhelming stress.
My defense team was frustrated that I would not allow them to say anything negative in court about my family members. We had all been through hell together and I wasn’t about to turn on them now, even to stay out of jail and even though they had turned on me. To survive a trial of this magnitude with the respect I have for my family is true strength.
When I started therapy, I thought that made me weak. However, a year later, I realize that I am a strong person. I realize that I lived this life and learned these lessons for a reason. I have let go of so much hatred for my past and believe that my purpose is to help others in my future.
I feel that if you live your life in a fog of depression and despair you will never actually survive and prosper—you will just exist. I didn’t come this far and survive what I did to remain in misery. My goal is to continue to heal and become stronger within myself. My passion is to be able to show others that abuse doesn’t have to run your life, but it can show you compassion and a willingness to help others.
So, am I strong or weak? I think that my therapist would call me strong and compassionate. I think I am halfway between the two. True strength will be when I can share all of my emotions openly.