My father violently picked off all the petals and left us lifeless, but somehow we survived.
CN: Domestic abuse, child abuse
I have been silenced my entire life. My childhood was never mine—it was my father’s sick puppet show, filled with endless cruelty and abuse. My mother, sister, and I quietly suffered. We were placed into separate, soundproof boxes by our abuser, screaming for each other, for anyone willing to help. I am alone.
At 11, I filed a report against my father with my middle school guidance counselor. When I arrived home from the bus stop, I was stunned to see a social worker filing her papers into her briefcase, and my mother sobbing at the kitchen table. The social worker ignored me and offered no safety or support. I babysat my neighbor that evening, and desperately tried to keep the little girl upstairs as my father furiously beat at the windows and doors. I slept at home that night with my eyes glued to the ceiling, because I was certain he would kill me at any moment. I am alone.
I spent most of my teenage years placed in residential treatment, processing my abuse and all the internalized hatred that had led to habitual self-harm, an uncontrollable eating disorder, and borderline personality disorder. I found some solace as I listened to other patients recount their traumas, and they became my temporary support system. Despite my newfound solidarity, I still felt as though I was crying into empty space when my counselors decided not to file a report against my abuser. I am alone.
Two years ago, at 19, I went to visit my parents and siblings during my summer break. My relationship with my siblings had been temperamental since I signed out of treatment at 18. I was living my life 800 miles away with the hopeful intention to heal, but as I walked back through the doors of my old home I felt every inch of me echo: “Something is wrong.” I am alone.
My sister and I listened to my parent’s fight through the bathroom wall, only making out pieces of threats and verbal insults. We spent hours prying on the family computer, reading our father’s true stories of endless infidelity, abuse, and threats made against our mother. I woke my mother up at 4am, begged her to come downstairs, and asked her, “Do you think dad will kill us?”
I’ve never seen my mother simultaneously weak and strong. We spent the early morning shaking and spilling out every truth we had kept in our insulated boxes. I learned that my mother’s world was characterized by an endless cycle of abuse. I sat in horror hearing that behind the closed doors of my parent’s bedroom, my mother usually had a gun down her throat, begging for her life. I spent my life believing the abuse was solely my experience. In truth, we were singled out so we held less power. My father violently picked off all the petals and left us lifeless, but somehow we survived. Maybe I am not alone.
This is where our silence stopped. We filed a restraining order against him, hoping for a reprieve, but found only a broken and corrupt system. The last two years have been wasted in endless court battles, trying to keep the restraining order active in hope that my father’s confiscated guns would not be returned to him. He was arrested for breaching the restraining order—the next day he was released on bail and his mug shot was removed from the police department’s website.
The original restraining order was terminated by a careless, misogynistic judge about a year after we had found the bravery to finally face our abuser. I filed another order in a desperate panic, but the order would only be made long-term if I spoke about my physical and sexual abuse in front of my abuser in court. I quit pursuing it, knowing the obvious outcome of testimony would be more trauma and victimization.
I made call after call to our local police department as my father nonchalantly violated the restraining order. My mother and sister called 911, and pleaded for an empathetic mediator as my younger brother inflicted violence on them. My brother howled for help as he himself was beaten and displaced by the system—now he’s just like my father.
When the police arrived, they told my sister her bruises and welts were “not their problem.” Officers have said that the abuse hasn’t happened unless we are “bruised and bloody in that moment.” After a few months, they stopped responding to any of our calls. My mother received a letter from the police department a few months ago, stating they would not get involved because we had made 43 calls to them.
Forty-three desperate fucking calls for HELP.
I moved 2,000 miles away. We are not alone, but our voices are not heard.
I often wonder what these officers would say to me if my mother or sister were murdered. Would they apologize? Would these negligent officers regret their past choices to ignore us? I spend everyday terrified and tortured by these thoughts circling my anxious mind.
I’m tired of our broken system. I’m disgusted by police officers treating domestic violence victims as liars and criminals. I’m tired of bullshit roundabouts for abusers and rapists.
One in four women will be physically assaulted—most likely by a family member or intimate partner.
I’m just so damn tired.
Kyli Rodriguez-Cayro is a writer, entrepreneur, and activist. She lives in Utah and is currently working on her first novel.