Did he ever physically assault you, or did you just try to stay away from him?
Mainly I stayed away from him. The only time he and I ever got into any type of physical altercation was when he was throwing mason jars at my head one time because my mom wasn’t home and he wanted something. I told him she wasn’t home and he got mad and started throwing mason jars at my head and against the wall, while telling me I need to go get her, even though I couldn’t. But mainly he left me alone. His abusiveness came from trying to get things from people, and I had nothing to offer him.
But you were living with the fear of his hurting your parents, whom you loved so much that you didn’t even want to tell them that they were letting you down. Did you tell anyone at school what was going on?
I think it was my sophomore year, or maybe the beginning of my junior year, when we had one of those abuse counselors from [a local domestic violence agency] do a presentation during gym class or health class. I actually approached her and was asking questions, and she told me, “Well, the only thing you could do is you and your mother could leave.” I asked, “What about my dad?” And she said, “Well, we don’t take care of men.” So I said, “I can’t do anything, then, because we’re a package deal.”
Junior year, I did end up seeing a school counselor and started to kind of talk about it. But this woman must have been 28 years old—you know, she was just out of school—and I’m laying all this on her and she’s just kind of staring at me. Shewas like, “Um, I don’t know what to do about that.” That was her answer. She said, “I’m really sorry that’s happening. Have you tried to talk to someone else?” She just didn’t know what to do. It seemed like they had answers and pamphlets for what to do if your parents are abusing you or a boyfriend is abusing you or if you’re doing too many drugs, but there’s no pamphlet for “my younger brother is very violent.”
How did you deal with it? Is there anything you now wish you had done differently, or that you would advise someone in a similar situation to do?
Well, my way of dealing with it was that I didn’t spend a lot of time at home and I didn’t really go to school and I did a lot of drugs—and I would not recommend that to anybody. I feel like I was very lucky, considering how much I was using—like, I did LSD for pretty much a month straight. That is not a smart escape route, but that’s how I dealt with it. That, and I learned not to have any real emotion about it anymore. You just swallow the anger and anything else that is going on. I would not advise that, either. It’s not very healthy, and it does not create very healthy relationships with people later in life.
I would say that if something like this is happening to you, push harder than I did to get someone to actually listen. I had police officers tell me that this wasn’t actually happening. Don’t accept that. Go to counselors. And, it sounds funny, but tell another grownup, someone else’s parent. They might not be able to do anything, but at least they know. One of the guys I was dating, his parents didn’t know 100 percent of it, but they knew something was wrong, and they made it so I was safe at their house. And your mom made it so I was safe. They created safe areas for me to be so I didn’t have to be at home. So: Push harder to get results, because doing a lot of acid is not the way to handle life.
As your friend, I spend a lot of time thinking about what I could have done differently. Like you said, my mom sort of knew, but she didn’t really know details about the David stuff until after high school, so I wonder if I should have told her more or if I should have gone to the police or a social worker to back you up, because we when finally went together, with your parents, maybe it was just because they had finally been pushed far enough, but things finally happened. So, if someone has a friend in this situation, what do you think is the best thing that they can do?
I think you did exactly what I needed you to do. If you had gone to a social worker, I could have been removed from my parents’ home, because I was a minor. Instead of taking my brother away, they could have taken me away and the blame would have been on my parents. And though they are responsible on some level for enabling David’s behavior, taking me, the one logical person, out of the situation would not have helped.
But if I needed to get out of there, if I just called and said, “I’m coming over now, you would say, “OK, got it.” You were there [for me], and that’s what I needed. Anyone whose friend is in this sort of situation, just pay attention to what’s going on and what they need. Do they need you to just meet them at a park at nine o’clock at night just to get out of the house, or do they need you to tell your parents what’s going on? Ask them.
When David was finally sentenced, you called me and said, “When I meet people now, I don’t even have to tell them I have a brother.” Is that what you’re doing now? Do you acknowledge him as a brother?
When people ask me if I have a sibling, I automatically say, “Yeah, I have a younger brother.” Then when they ask, “Oh, what does he do?” I used to stop talking, but now I am coming out and saying, “He’s incarcerated.” And if they ask for what, I say because he held my parents hostage at gunpoint. I don’t mince words anymore or hide it. My brother is in prison because of what he did, and if I tell people, they might have a better understanding of me. Most people just go, “Oh…well…anyhow…” because they don’t know how to react. But if they react badly, they react badly. [Telling them] is not for shock value, it’s because this is the reality. This is real.