My mother, Diane Gaye Charbonneau Hall, was born on December 20, 1936. I have been told she was a beautiful French woman, that she was tall, thin, quiet and sweet. I have a picture of her in my living room and in the picture she’s beautiful. She has very dark hair, is wearing red lipstick, and is obviously an impeccable dresser. She comes across as very sophisticated and elegant.
Mother was only on this wonderful earth for 29 short, mostly violent years. At least 13 of them were spent married to my father, a brutally abusive man. Domestic violence took my mother when I was only three years old.
I often wonder what it would feel like to have her arms around me, giving me one of those enormous hugs you see moms and children exchange every day or what it would be like to call her on the phone when I need advice, comfort, or someone to share a laugh. Then I try with everything I have in my body to remember something about her; but no matter how hard I try, I can’t remember anything.
For most, Mother’s Day is a day of rejoice, of thankfulness. For some, like me, it’s bitter sweet. All because one person wanted to control another person. Lives taken way too soon.
My father was brutally abusive, but my mother grew up in poverty, had little education and no way to take care of four young children. So she felt she had no choice but to suffer for the sake of her children.
It happens way too often. What about the voiceless, helpless, innocent children who often times face foster care and a life of hopelessness because of domestic violence? Or the dollars spent on the counseling needed, or the effects of unaffordable mental health care services for these littlest of survivors? Or the cost of lifetime care for those unable to overcome their past?
The children pay the greatest price. Living life without a mother leaves a hole in your heart that aches for a lifetime. Domestic violence stole my entire life and the lives of my three siblings. It stole our childhood and it stole everything inside that made us children. The effects of domestic violence and child abuse last a lifetime.
Nearly three out of four (74 percent) of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence. Thirty percent of Americans say they know a woman who has been physically abused by her husband or boyfriend in the past year.
On average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day. Intimate partner homicides accounted for 30 percent of the murders of women and five percent of the murders of men.
Among the collateral consequences of domestic violence:
- The health-related costs of intimate partner violence exceed $5.8 billion each year. Of that amount, nearly $4.1 billion are for direct medical and mental health care services, and nearly $1.8 billion are for the indirect costs of lost productivity or wages.
- Studies suggest that up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually.
Sometimes I go into the living room and pick up my mother’s picture. I ever so gently stroke her face as I look longingly into her eyes and wonder about this woman who I’ve been told is my mother. Sometimes, as I stare into her beautiful eyes, I shed tears. Tears of a relationship that never was, tears that I will never experience the intense love that only a mother can give.
How is it the right of one person to cause so much pain? We need to pull together and stop the abuse today.
Helen Ramaglia is a foster alumni who became a foster/adoptive parent. She is the founder and Director of Fostering Superstars, a Congressional Award Winner for her work with foster children and is the author of “From Foster to Fabulous”. She is a popular speaker, trainer and advocate for foster children.
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