Content warning: The following story contains references to domestic abuse, drug abuse and violence, which may be triggering to some readers.
“I Found My Voice,” Jenna Glazer
Most people look at me and see an overachieving teacher's pet, who tries to hard in school. Those people would be 100% correct. However, what many people don't know is that academics saved me.
For my entire life school was my safe haven. The place where I was good at something. Where people would praise me and we're proud of me. The place I felt safe and loved. School was my home, because my home was a battleground.
Although I didn't really know what that meant when I was six, I realize now that my mother and brother's physical and verbal abuse was not some form of tough love. It took me about 17 years to finally admit it, but I was (and still am) a victim of domestic abuse. Both my mother and brother suffer from anger management issues, and combined with my brother's drug abuse my home became a ticking time bomb. For the majority of my life I've had to worry every day about saying the wrong thing, entering a room at the wrong time, or even watching the wrong television show. My parents promised me for years that they would help my brother get over his anger management issues, that he'd stop smoking pot in the house, and he'd stop bringing his drug dealing friends around. As a young girl I believed them with every ounce of my being.
I believed them until one day at the beginning of my freshman year of high school. I was watching a TV show called, "Beyond Scared Straight" about kids who were on the wrong path and needed a push in the right direction. Earlier that day I got into a fight with my brother about his own drug abuse and the family members in the episode were saying the same things I believed. My brother walked into the room and as soon as I looked into his eyes my heart began to pound and all my brain could think was "run."
While running toward the door I grabbed the phone, because maybe, just maybe I could find my voice. I make it to the door but it's shut and I'm cornered. “I’ll call them,” I say, but just like the times before, he knows it’s an empty threat. The anger between us scares me, and as I clench the phone he looks at me with hatred in his eyes. He snaps. The force of his body slams me backward and my right arm hits the handle of the door. The pain shoots up my arm, and the tears begin to stream. But through it all, I saw my chance to escape. I wasn’t afraid anymore. I dialed 9-1-1.
I had finally found my voice, but looking back it was almost all for nothing. According to my parents, I ruined my brother’s life by calling the police. That guilt convinced me not to testify at his domestic assault trial, but despite my silence, our relationship has never healed: anger still looms between us. I still fear for my life every time I walk into my house, and over the years my brother's issues have seemed to multiply.
Sometimes I wish that I could go back in time, not call the police, and stay quiet. But then again, speaking out for my well-being, even if it meant betraying my family, made me stronger. Reaching out to my high school teachers, and discussing my options with administration, I discovered that my voice matters, and I hope to do the same for others.
That's why I'm now at Lesley University, becoming a teacher. I'm ready to pay it forward. School was my saving grace and I hope to make my future classroom the safe space that my students deserve. No one should feel unsafe, unappreciated, and unsupported. I found my voice and it is time to help others find theirs.
About the art:
This is exactly what Jenna wanted!
We both like flowers and I suggested incorporating a hand or hands to simulate taking control and finding your strength. She was into some Ophelia vibes as well. The flowers pictured are representative of strength and poise.