There came a time in my late teens when I often felt I had no advocates — I literally felt there was no one I could turn to when the violence in my home became unbearable. There was a shroud of secrecy around the violence, as there often is within dysfunctional families. I did not dare tell anyone about the problems in my home. Until one day, when I was working at someone’s house who I call “Megan” in my book.
Susan’s question was on my mind when I went to Megan’s house in Chesterland the next day. Megan was a young Catholic mother of four little ones, and I had been cleaning and watching the children for her once a week for the past few months.
That day, Megan left me with the children and a large batch of ironing. I wasn’t in any shape to do either. I spent most of my time out of sight of the children, in the bathroom, crying. I knew one thing for sure. I couldn’t endure the violence and the fear any longer. I had no idea what I was going to do, but something had to change.
I was still crying in the bathroom when Megan came home, earlier than I had expected. I quickly washed my face and slipped down to the basement to iron.
Megan noticed that I had just begun the work. After one look at my face, though, she didn’t reprimand me.
“Saloma, what is the matter?” she asked.
No one had ever asked me that question before. I collapsed into the nearest chair. Dimly aware of the children’s inquisitive stares, I covered my face with my hands. I couldn’t hold back the sobs and I couldn’t talk. Megan herded her children up the stairs and into the playroom. Then she came down and said, “You need to tell me what this is about.”
I had my crying under control by then and I said, “It has nothing to do with you. It’s got to do with home. My father hurts us girls because he thinks we are rebellious. But there is no way we can please him, because he is unreasonable. Last night my sister was taking a bath in the basement, and she heard my father coming after her. She escaped into the woods. She stayed out there with hardly any clothes until Sarah and I found her.”
Megan looked at me with a stunned expression. She said, “Saloma, I had no idea.”
“You didn’t?” I asked. I thought everyone in the world knew about my family.
“Does he ever hit your mother?” Megan asked.
“No, just us. He seems to hate when we show signs of growing up. If we all stayed children, I think he would be fine.”
“You can’t go on living like this,” Megan said.
“My sisters and I say that to each other so many times, but we never know what to do about it.”
“There is a place here in Chesterland called Head Help. I will go upstairs and call them and make an appointment for you to see them next week when you come here. Will you be all right until then?”
I laughed at the irony. “I’ve lived with it so far, I think I can go another week,” I said.
I ironed while Megan made the phone call. She came downstairs and told me she had arranged for me to see a woman named Carol the following week.