Domestic Violence Awareness

“Breakthrough” a story from Bloom In the Dark: True Stories of Hope and Redemption

Oct 19, 2015 |By Black-eyed Susan

Here we go again, I thought as I drove to my daughter’s school. Her substitute teacher had slapped her face in class for not paying attention. The teacher got fired immediately, but I was having to go meet with the Department of Children’s Services about the mess. When will we Lentz women quit being punching bags? Now. That’s when. I thought back through the choices I’d already made to stop this family curse. It wasn’t just the women, either. We were good at marrying men who had a history of abuse. We were the poster family for “Hurt people hurt people.”

Both of my parents and their parents experienced traumatic childhoods. My dad came from an extremely abusive family. His earliest memory is of his dad holding a knife to his mom’s throat and her begging for her life. My mom’s stepdad would often beat her until she was unconscious. The pattern was obvious.

Our family didn’t discriminate on types of abuse, either. Verbal abuse set the stage for the other types of abuse. When my dad was angry, which was often, he would call us fat cows. We were stick thin. When I was six and didn’t know any better, I cried when I got hurt. My dad’s response was to tell me that my face looked like “a chicken butt” when I cried. I quit crying then and tried to never cry again.

If being stoic and tough was what he wanted, I would learn to be that. I desperately wanted approval. I made myself shut down. Don’t feel anything. I would lecture myself. I would become just as tough as my dad. Show no emotion. Don’t be weak. Of course, I never got his approval. But I didn’t get bullied as much, so I kept refusing to feel anything.

The physical abuse was called “discipline” when it was aimed at us kids. In a rage, dad would grab our hair and smash our heads together. We didn’t seem to know how to be good enough, so he would beat us with his belt or a huge switch from outside. One night, when I was on the phone after dad told me to get off, he ripped the phone out of the wall. Then he grabbed me by my hair and threw me across the room. Out of nowhere, my older sister showed up and punched him in the head. They fought long enough for me to get away.

After a family battle like that, he would mope around the house for days, not speaking to anyone. He would just sit around and pout with this dark shadow seeming to hang over him. Everything that he did was somehow our fault. That’s all we’d ever known, so we believed him. Even when we had done nothing wrong, he was able to twist situations around so much that we would start to think we were actually in the wrong. My mom, my sister and I were all confused and terrified. He was a master manipulator. He was a bully who was bigger and stronger than all of us, so he always got his way.

One night when my dad was beating mom up, she yelled at me to call 911. Shaking, I quickly dialed the number. It worked, because he quit beating her to grab the phone away from me. But then, he smashed my head into the side of the piano. That really hurt!

I heard him sweetly tell the dispatcher that he had a delinquent teenager who needed to have the “fear of the law” put into her. He asked them to send an officer. When the cops showed up, I had to listen to my dad tell lies that he seemed to actually believe.

My battered mother hid in their room while I listened to a lecture about obeying my parents. I couldn’t really focus on what they were saying because my head hurt so much. My dad was obviously above the law and could get away with anything.

One day, after a beating, I was so afraid of going home after school that I went to a friend’s house instead. When I told my dad that I wasn’t coming home, he called the cops and had them arrest me at my friend’s house. I was horrified, but I showed no emotion when they hauled me off to juvenile jail for the night.

I wasn’t sure which was worse, home or jail. Being stuck alone for four hours with a huge, tattooed linebacker slanted things against the safety of being in jail. Supposedly, that should never have happened, but after that, I thought I was better off just trying to avoid the abuse at home. At least I knew how to survive that.

Where was God in all of this? Well, a twisted, abusive “God” was shoved down our throats by the Pentecostal cult my dad had started following. He took us to church every Sunday to show us off as the perfect Christian family. It was so confusing to have the “strong Christian man” be so mean and hurtful at home. He had a wonderful reputation at church and in the community.

His reputation was extremely important to him. We knew we had better never say or do anything to make him look bad, or we would be severely punished. My dad’s habit of twisting scripture to justify his actions and his being such a hypocrite really damaged my relationship with God. It was a long process for me to develop a real relationship with my loving Father God.

When people would tell me what an amazing father I had, I would just smile and nod. No one would ever believe what we lived with at home. For example, one day I forgot my uniform for work. I hated going home, but I had to stop at the house after school to quickly change. Trying to avoid being late to work, I ran into the house. Uh oh. I had just burst into a Bible study my dad was having with some church friends.

I was horrified that he would yell at me. Instead, his face lit up. He invited me into the middle of his prayer circle, telling everyone what a godly daughter he had. I was too afraid to say I was going to be late for work, so I stayed for over an hour as they prayed in tongues. When my dad told me I had to pray, too, I made something up that I hoped sounded good enough that I wouldn’t get punished later. I ended up getting written up for being two hours late for work.

Mom always told us that we had it easy, so I figured that it couldn’t be all that bad. She would say that we had no idea what it felt like to be beaten or hurt. Sometimes she would tell us that we were spoiled rotten. Knowing we’d get severely punished, she would still tell on us to our dad. She was so terrified of him that she would do this to deflect his attention away from herself.

For over twenty years, my mom worked a full time job and handed my dad her paycheck every week. She was not allowed to have any money, because money would enable her to leave. I know she loved me in her own way because she stayed with him until I turned eighteen. Since I was the youngest, she moved out the same day I did. The only person she told where she was staying was her mom, who understood and wouldn’t betray her. It was a full two weeks before my mom dared to come out of hiding.

In my late twenties, I finally found a man who could really protect me from my dad. LeBrone was a huge, black body-builder with a shaved head and a beautiful smile. He was twice my dad’s size and he loved me. I believed LeBrone would protect me from anyone ever hurting me again. When he would hold me, his strong arms would make me feel safe. LeBrone seemed to be one of the genuine guys. He’d been abused as a child, too, so we had a lot in common. We were going to help each other heal and be stronger.

My dad’s fear of LeBrone was a huge bonus. After our wedding, however, I found out they had a lot in common. Over the next six years, I learned that they were both verbally and physically abusive. LeBrone was addicted to alcohol, drugs and other women.

After seven years of marriage, when my husband started being abusive in front of our daughter, I left him. I had told myself that I would never do what my mom had done. I would not raise my children in an abusive home. I regretted staying as long as I did. I had stayed, hoping my husband would change.

I started reaching out to the God, Who I had been told actually loved me. I also started going to counseling. I wanted to provide a loving home for my daughter. I wanted to raise her in a healthy, loving environment. God started showing Himself to me as a God of love and healing.

I started softening enough to feel again. I had to feel the bad things and do a bit of crying, but I also got to feel the good things. I was able to let myself feel emotions. More importantly, I could trust others enough to show my emotions to them. I no longer had to be the toughest person around.

A setback in my journey to recovery happened when I tried to have a relationship with my dad after my divorce. Since I’d changed so much, I guess I thought he was different. My daughter and I went to a party at my Dad’s house. When my dad asked me if he could spank my daughter if she disobeyed, I froze and didn’t answer. I was still afraid of making him mad by saying he couldn’t spank her, so I just ignored the question.

I bit my tongue a few times when he made ugly comments to me. I was trying to “honor” my father, but then my daughter did something foolish. I watched in total shock as my dad grabbed her and spanked her severely. As soon as the shock wore off, I ran over and picked her up. She was devastated at the anger and pain aimed at her. I held her close and ran out of the house to our car.

I left and haven’t spoken to my dad since. I realized that I had to forgive him, but I still needed to stay away from him. He wasn’t capable of a healthy relationship. I pray for him, but I will not subject us to his abuse. Hurt people hurt people. I need to be healed so I don’t pass this heritage on to my daughter.

Through counseling, divorce care at church, and talking with other true Christians, I’m starting to tap deeper and deeper into my emotions. The numbness is being replaced with intense feelings of both pain and joy. I’m learning to give God my anxiety, rejection, shame, and guilt. I’m learning that there is hope for me.

God is near to the brokenhearted. He is nothing like the abusive, controlling “God” that my dad portrayed. God is showing me that He loves me. I am worthy of His ultimate sacrifice on the cross. I am worthy because God created me and loves me as His beautiful daughter. His validation is the only one that matters.

My life will break through the generational curses of abuse in my family. My daughter may face a few hard things in life, like the mess with the substitute teacher at school, but they will be the exception, not the rule. She will see God as a loving Father. God is bigger than any problem we face. He can heal and restore us from any damage. As we look to Him, God will help us win the battle in our minds. He will give us the validation we need. He will help us end the generational curses. We will be the ultimate BREAKTHROUGH!

Thanks again to the amazing ex-victim who shared her story to bring hope and redemption to others! Paula

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