By Jon Smith, Domestic Violence Program Coordinator |

By Jon Smith, Domestic Violence Program Coordinator

Wow! It is hard to believe I am finishing up my third month at the Women’s Center. A new career field includes a very big learning curve and each day I take in and experience so much. I am challenged and motivated to contribute my best to our clients and my co-workers.

One area that I am better understanding is the abuse that is at the center of child abuse and/or domestic violence. I used to always think of this abuse as only physical. Beating or torturing anyone is horrible and wrong, but it is only the tip of the iceberg. The long-term emotional abuse someone endures as a result of child abuse and/or domestic violence is horrific.

I just finished reading “A Child Called ‘It'” by Dave Pelzer. The author tells his childhood story of being physically and emotionally abused by his mother. He was the “scapegoat,

a key role in dysfunctional families. It was very hard to read. I was sick to my stomach as I read page after page. I felt like I was in Dave’s shoes and it was difficult for me to imagine experiencing this and living this way each day of my life.

His mother would put him in front of a mirror and make him repeat over and over again, “I am a bad boy, I am a bad boy” or “I hate myself, I hate myself.” He was not allowed to look at or acknowledge his mother or brothers without their permission. His mother threatened to kill him again and again. His father did not participate in the abuse, but his actions were equally as cruel. He was silent and allowed the abuse to continue.

Dave had no self-esteem and thought he was worthless. These feelings can be life-damaging. Each of us has the right to our dignity. Children and adults need to be empowered to feel good about themselves. We do so much harm to each other with wicked words of hate and abuse. Our actions greatly affect others. I will continue to respect each child and adult I meet and build positive relationships based on love and understanding.

Quote of the Month:

“Most people think that physical abuse does the most long-term harm to a person, but I feel the emotional and verbal abuse I have experienced has caused much more damage in my life,” Mary, age 42, survivor of childhood abuse and domestic violence.

The South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center is located at 2941 Lake Tahoe Blvd. The building is being purchased through a grant from the Sierra Health Foundation, an independent foundation committed to supporting health-related activities in Northern California, a low cost loan from the Rural Community Assistance Corporation and local community donations. For more information call the office at (530) 544-2118. The Crisis Line number is (530) 544-4444.

Jon Smith, domestic violence program coordinator at the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center, will provide a Women’s Center Update column to be published each month on the Tahoe Daily Tribune Community Outlook Page.

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